The San Diego Unified school board read over the proposed policy on biliteracy last night, but it didn’t make any decisions. Under the proposed policy English learners would be taught in both English and Spanish rather than in English only classes. Here are some highlights from the discussions:

  • Board member Katherine Nakamura, a big fan of language learning and a Japanese speaker herself, called the policy “a step forward in many ways” but had concerns about how the policy was crafted and what, exactly, its impact would be. She noted that input came largely from Spanish speakers and questioned whether emphasizing languages in younger grades would mean that schools have to bump other electives, such as art. Staffers said that the policy would not compel schools to adopt language programs, but are bringing back more details on the policy and its impacts next week.
  • Francisco Pena, a parent at Linda Vista Elementary, said that it was very important to him that his children continue to speak both Spanish and English. “If they’re prepared to learn both languages, it’s going to be a lot easier for them as they get older,” he said.
  • Board member Richard Barrera is pushing for the language department to go a step further and move beyond its agnostic stance on whether biliteracy programs are better than English immersion. The policy states that biliteracy programs are a valid option grounded in research, but doesn’t say it is the preferred approach for San Diego Unified. Barrera said that when parents are informed of the options for English learners, staffers should tell them, “We as a district are moving towards a biliteracy program because we think it’s the best strategy.”

I’m also getting a lot of interesting e-mail with your perspectives on bilingual education. Kindergarten teacher Karen Gomez writes that her English immersion class has been successful in teaching her students, who often arrive in September with little or no English. She has another idea on how to foster their skills in their native language:

They have the opportunity to speak in their native language before school, during recess and after school with classmates and parents. Wouldn’t it be great if we could offer classes for our students to read and write in their native language in the 7th and 8th hours each day? I believe a combination of district-paid teachers and supervised parent volunteers could offer a valuable program to support our students in the learning of their native language, including language instruction and grade level content.

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to e-mail me your personal stories and perspectives at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org.

Emily Alpert

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