- LOS ANGELES TIMES
Thursday, June 3, 1999
- English Lessons
Proposition 227 changed how teachers taught the youngest
Oak View students. But hard work and preparation helped
make the first year a success, educators say.
By MARISSA ESPINO
Last June, the Oak View Elementary School, with its largely Spanish-speaking pupils,
became the local center of a statewide effort to end bilingual education in public schools.
And one year after the overwhelming approval of Proposition 227 and the heated race
and discrimination debates that led up to it, Oak View educators have done their best to
adapt to the new rules.
"Philosophically, bilingual education is the best way to go," said Oak View Principal
Karen Catabijan. "But obeying the law, we have implemented an effective program here."
Despite the obstacles of rewriting entire lesson plans and developing new teaching
strategies, Catabijan said the Oak View staff successfully implemented an English
immersion program at the school, where 99% of the students are Spanish speakers.
"It's been a lot of hard work," Catabijan said. "I don't think any other staff could have
done what they did. They are committed to our students." Oak View was the only school in
the Ocean View School District that was affected by the proposition.
And as the students prepare to wrap up their first school year immersed in English,
proponents of the initiative are also calling it a success.
Jim Righeimer -- co-founder of the Tustin-based Education Alliance, which is a
organization that supports conservative school board candidates' campaigns -- has
supported Proposition 227 since its inception.
The Fountain Valley resident who is also running for the 67th District Assembly seat in
2000 said he has heard mixed reactions from teachers about the new rules. But he
thinks English-only education is important.
"The sense that I get is that sometimes people who get overeducated don't look at the most
obvious answers," he said. "I think it is great that common sense came through." Before
this year, many of Oak View's classes already were taught entirely in English, so the
changes affected the kindergarten through second grades.
Although teachers anticipated the curriculum change and devoted more than 60 hours of
preparation during the summer, Oak View was not notified of the implementation of
Proposition 227's provisions until August.
"We had to start from scratch," first-grade teacher Lynda Holman said. "We had the
extra burden of making our [Spanish] materials in English.
"It's a process of refining and rethinking," she said. "We've stayed here every Friday
night and planned things." Last year, many of the students were learning vowels,
concepts and how to read in Spanish while learning English only part of the day.
Now, students are learning English all day using a hands-on approach that allows them to
understand their lessons by seeing, touching and hearing.
First-grade teacher Heidi Webb said she has seen immense progress.
"There has definitely been growth," she said. "I feel like we never let up on the kids.
These kids worked and worked on this." Caryn Stone, another Oak View first-grade
teacher, said she was confident Oak View had a strong program and the teachers were
trying to do what is best for the children.
"You have to have all the tools, and we made this program work this year," he said. "We
all worked together and made it work. It's incredible what the children have done."
Unlike many schools throughout the state that were forced to reconcile the new law with
angry parents and community leaders who called the move a veiled form of racism, Oak
View parents accepted the change willingly.
Waivers were available for parents who didn't want their student to participate in the
English-immersion program, but no Oak View parents requested such a measure.
In fact, the parents themselves have become a key ingredient to implementing the new
The school has offered several literacy and math nights for the parents to get them
involved with their children's education and help them recognize their role as teachers
in the home.
"We really developed a rapport where parents know they can talk to us," Holman said.
"They trust us." PTA President Martha Cervantes said she has noticed the students'
progress and the growing parent involvement in the school thanks to the parent classes.
"The [literacy] program helped me. I started reading and writing English," she said. "Oak
View school helps the parents. If parents learn, parents help more at home." Holman said
some of the most rewarding moments are when her students ask to take home more than
one book to read after school or want to stay in at recess to do more school work.
"These kids know school is a very special place," she said. "We want to see our kids
Requires that all California public school students be placed in English language
classrooms in which the language of instruction is overwhelmingly the English.
Bilingual education or native language instruction may be provided only if a parent or
guardian requests a waiver of English-language instruction requirements.
- Copyright 1999 Los Angeles Times. All Rights Reserved