Wednesday, September 24, 2008

While I'm At It

Yesterday I shared with you my feelings about the problems inherent in "merit based" teacher pay. Today I'd like to talk a bit about Measure 58, another Bill Sizemore gem.

The Oregonian
Measure 58, one of five measures on the November ballot authored by Bill Sizemore, would prohibit schools from teaching English learners in their native language after one year in elementary school or two years in high school.
There are numerous problems with this proposal, not the least of which is Sizemore's familiar attempt to restrict teachers' and schools' flexibility to do what's best for children.

Ideally we'd be offering all LEP (Limited English Proficient) instruction in their first languages along with English language classes, allowing them to grasp core content information at roughly the same pace as their native English speaking peers. Research shows that students who develop their first languages fully, including reading and writing, are better able to fully develop their second language skills. Those whose first language literacy skills stop developing around the time they enter school are less likely to thrive academically.

Unfortunately we don't have teachers qualified to teach in all 40+ languages found in Oregon's schools so pure bilingual education can't be offered equitably. Instead most school use some form of "sheltered instruction" to make content comprehensible to LEP students, my program included. More and more we are expected to focus less on straight English and incorporate content areas like math, social studies, science, and more.

Mainstreaming in English-only classrooms works for some LEP students and is a total failure for others. That's why there are alternatives like my program. Measure 58 would limit students' access to programs like ours and reduce our ability to meet each student's needs, artificially forcing them to perform according to a predetermined timetable. Because each student is an individual, teachers ad school districts need the freedom to teach each student in the way that works best. This is a difficult enough goal to achieve in the public schools. Measure 58 would make it even more so.

No comments: