Tuesday, November 05, 2013


Taking parents out of the equation: Principals  are "subject to disciplinary action" if they don’t reorganize their classes as demanded.

Opinion: L.A. schools should not separate non-English-speaking children

by Raul A. Reyes, NBCLatino |http://on.nbclatino.co/1b8NTTH

5:00 am on 11/04/2013  ::  An education controversy is brewing in Los Angeles.  The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is planning to separate non-English speaking elementary students from other students in core classes.  These changes are to be made soon, although it is almost three months into the school year.  According to the Los Angeles Times, LAUSD Superintendant John Deasy believes that too many English Learners are learning “Spanglish” from their fellow students, rather than proper English.

The move by the LAUSD has rightfully angered parents, teachers, and principals.  While the district’s experts say the plan is a sound idea, common sense and past experience suggest that it may not be.  It opens the door to classifying Spanish-speaking pupils as “second-class students” simply because they are not proficient in English.

“Kids with little or no English are going to be segregated and told they’re not good enough for the mainstream,” one mother of a kindergartner told the L.A. Times.  ”Kids learn from their peers, and they’re not going to be able to do that anymore.” Meanwhile, 17 principals from South L.A. schools have signed a letter to their local superintendant expressing their opposition to the policy.  They pointed out that Spanish-speaking students will be uprooted from their friends and familiar teachers, and that segregating students would create a “chasm” between them.  These concerns are all valid.  It seems illogical that schools trying to teach students English will now be forced to separate these students from their English-speaking peers.

The LAUSD is the second-largest school district in the country.  It is 73 percent Latino, and contains roughly 161,000 students learning to speak proficient English.  LAUSD is legally obligated to do better by these English Learners, because in 2010 the federal Department of Education launched an investigation into whether they were violating the civil rights of English Learners by not properly educating them.

Under the terms of a 2011 settlement, the district agreed to implement changes, which resulted in the new “separate learning” policy.  The unfairness here is that the LAUSD has made mistakes in how it educates English Learners – yet it is students who will be paying the price for the district’s errors.

The LAUSD English Learner Master Plan states that, “…a student’s education should not be determined by his or her race, ethnicity, linguistic background, or socio-economic status.”  Unfortunately, in the past reality has diverged from these ideals. A 2009 University of Southern California study found that once students were designated as English Learners and put in special classes, they remained there for too long.  Almost 30 percent of the LAUSD students put in the English Learner classes during primary grades were still in them by high school.  Even more surprising: 70 percent of English Learners were U.S.-born.

Although LAUSD experts believe that their plan will enable students to learn English faster, the Christian Science Monitor interviewed education experts who were divided on the issue.  The U.S. Department of Education suggests that the “best practice” for English Learners is peer learning between native- and non-English speakers.  So the district would be wise to come up with teaching methods for English Learners that do not set them apart from other students.

This is a tall order.  Consider that the LAUSD is bound by the Supreme Court decision in Lau v. Nichols (1974) to provide equal educational opportunities to all students, regardless of their language abilities.  Or that the LAUSD plan may have a broader national impact on other districts as well.  Given such complexities, the least the district could do is delay implementation of these changes until the start of the next school year, so as to minimize disruption to students.

The LAUSD should not return to the days of “separate but equal” in education.  All students deserve an equal chance to learn and succeed – together.

Opinion: L.A. schools should not separate non English speaking children raul reyes nbc final education NBC Latino News

NBC Latino contributor Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and member of the USA Today Board of Contributors.

New measure in the English learning program in LAUSD teachers and parents upset

More controversy over student segregation

Los Angeles Times | 11/02/2013, 6:00 a.m. | http://bit.ly/1dKnUWB


New measure in the English learning program in LAUSD teachers and parents upset

Cindy Jordan, right, protest the separation in schools. | Los Angeles Times

Luis Gaytan, 5-year-old son of Mexican immigrants who speak Spanish at home, I was terrified when he entered kindergarten, because I could barely speak English, and that quickly led to his classmates teased saying he had no tongue.

In the past two months in Granada Elementary, a charter school community, Luis has improved his English language skills to be part of a class, where students with language mixed domain. His father, George, is convinced that his son is learning quickly because listening and sharing with children who have better command of English.

But Louis, and thousands of students in the Los Angeles Unified School District, are being moved to new classes where students have a similar language level, this under an order that has unleashed a storm of protest.

In recent weeks, a group of school principals southeast of Los Angeles has mounted a rare challenge to the regulations of the district, the teachers have been flooded with complaints union offices and parents have launched protests and campaigns urging the school district to postpone the reorganization of the school until next year.

Although the district measure adopted as official policy segregated classes in all schools in 2000, the same had not been implemented or was not implemented in all schools, according to officials of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and the union teachers.

But that has changed this year. The Los Angeles Unified School District reached an agreement on a complaint from the Office of Civil Rights, Department of Education, in which he argued that the district failed to provide adequate services to students who are learning English.

Katherine Hayes, Director of Scientific Research of the school district, told the teachers that the information held by the district reveals that students who are in classes with peers with similar levels of language progress more rapidly than those in mixed-level classes. But he added that the issue has not been fully studied and further research is needed.

Norm Gold, independent education consultant who has worked in the field of English language development for more than 35 years, said that although studies have mixed results, tend to lean towards the segregation of students according to their language ability English.

"In my experience, in addition to research, it is absolutely necessary to do this type of group," he said.

He added that students can be transferred to new classes once they have improved their fluency and knowledge.

Two bilingual education experts who belong to the teachers union, Union of Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), said they support the new school district policy that limits the permitted level of English in the classroom and helps teachers can focus in instruction. And even though students may learn a 'social English "with classmates, it is best that they learn the English" academic "level-appropriate in segregated classes, according to Cheryl Ortega, director of bilingual education UTLA.

In a letter sent on September 9 Local Superintendent Roberto Bravo, 17 school principals in South Los Angeles expressed disagreement with the measure. They argue that the flow of English-proficient students served as role models in the classroom to their peers with less proficiency. They argue that segregating students creating a gulf between them and also in the "communities that are intolerant towards those who are different."

In its written response, Bravo denied the request to delay implementation of the measure and informed school principals that they "may be subject to disciplinary action" if they object to reorganize their classes as indicated.

A school principal, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals, said administrators believed they were following the spirit of the plan trying to limit the levels, but even taking into account other factors. as gender, gifted skills and behavioral problems, to form well-balanced classes.

Some of the primary schools were ordered to reorganize the school, including Granada, Victoria and Tweedy, who was recently praised by the result obtained by the students with limited English proficiency in their examinations. Although you may request an exemption, but that has not yet been granted.

Bravo and district officer, Hilda Maldonado, said the school staff were notified about the changes for months. District officials conducted a training for all employees last November on the new policy, a memorandum giving details of how to form new classes was sent in May and several reminders were sent during the summer, reporting that the district and the government would oversee federal changes in the fall, said Maldonado, director of Multilingual and Multicultural Education Department.

But Judith Perez, who represents school principals in the Association of Administrators of Los Angeles, blamed the Los Angeles Unified School District by the turmoil that exists in schools, saying the district should do more to prevent it.

"You can not just send an email and wait for them to understand all the ramifications of these changes," said Perez. "We believe that the fault lies with them to provide schools inadequate communication. People are very upset, frustrated and discouraged. "

Madonado said it is currently unclear how many of the 500 elementary schools in the district have or are reorganizing their classes, some like the Hoover Elementary, which spent years organizing their classes by the level of fluency in English. He added that the policy encourages students to mix with other levels nonessential classes such as physical education, art and music.

In the San Fernando Valley, the parents of the primary Granada and Bassett joined forces last week to hold a protest and are considering boycotting school for a day this week, when it claims that the changes will take effect class.

Nieves Garcia, a mother with a son studying at Bassett Elementary, said she is particularly upset with primcipal Linda Barr were not informed properly about the changes that would be implemented, and that she learned of the teacher changes his son. Barr did not answer requests for this diary comment.

"They are completely taking the parents of this equation," said Nieves. "There are a lot of things that point, but they are not taking responsibility for. However, our children are suffering."

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