The debate over the best way to teach English-learners played a part in the controversial transfer of a bilingual principal-to-be, Edward Caballero, which I wrote about today.

Caballero helped create a bilingual immersion program for the future Sherman Elementary School that would split the school day between Spanish and English instruction.

That alarmed the area’s school board member, Luis Acle, who believes English immersion is the best way to teach English learners. Other trustees raised concerns about whether the program would comply with Proposition 227, which generally requires students to be taught in English.

It’s a fascinating debate. Here are a few points I couldn’t fit into my article:

Currently, the only other dual language immersion program in San Diego Unified is at the Language Academy, a K-8 school where all parents sign waivers allowing their children to be taught in other languages, said Teresa Walter, director of the school district’s Office of Language Acquisition.

Longfellow Elementary offers a Spanish immersion program, Walter said, but the program is geared primarily to helping English-speaking students learn Spanish. In contrast, the dual immersion program is meant to help both English natives and English learners, and to make all students fluent in two languages.

Acle believes that bilingual immersion is allowable “anywhere north of Highway 8,” but not among students who are learning English, who might avoid learning English through the program. Kathryn Lindholm-Leary, a San Jose State University researcher who favors the bilingual immersion model, called that idea inequitable.

“There’s no research to back up a statement like that,” Lindholm-Leary said.

Thoughts on how English learners learn best? Shoot me an e-mail with your insights.

EMILY ALPERT

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