- LOS ANGELES TIMES
Friday, October 23, 1998
- Hundreds Wait for Bilingual Education
Prop. 227: Requests often fall short of the number needed
to form a class. Students are taught in English with
support in their native language.
By LOUIS SAHAGUN, NICK ANDERSON, Times Staff Writers
Hundreds of students whose parents have petitioned for bilingual education in the Los
Angeles school system are in limbo while principals try to arrange bilingual classes.
The problem is that dozens of schools have received just a handful of requests for
bilingual education in the wake of Proposition 227--not enough to form even one class.
Data released this week by the Los Angeles Unified School District show that 11,809
requests have been filed for exemptions from English immersion. The district says it has
no evidence that any have been turned down.
But a Times analysis of the data and interviews with principals reveals the district is
unable to immediately accommodate everybody.
At least 68 schools received 1 to 20 waiver requests. Under the law, schools are
required to offer bilingual classes when at least 20 students in a given grade are granted
so-called waivers from English-intensive classes.
"If I don't get 20 waiver requests, the best I can offer is Model B," said Normandie
Avenue Elementary Principal Barbara Wright, where 15 parents have filed waiver
Wright was referring to one type of class the district has created to comply with the
anti-bilingual education proposition. Model B students are taught "primarily" in English
but receive "support" in their native languages from bilingual teachers.
And what to do when just one student wants bilingual education? At least 10 schools faced
that dilemma. In one case, an elementary school student has been placed in an English
immersion class until officials can determine if another school can take the child.
But another campus was more accommodating.
At Norwood Street Elementary, a third-grade girl was the child whose parents sought a
waiver. She is being taught mostly in Spanish in a class shared by 16 English immersion
"The district says we must comply with a parent's request--we've done that," said
Norma Diaz, Norwood's bilingual education coordinator. "These parents felt their child
would better understand and be more successful in her primary language than she would
have been in English language instruction. We respect that."
The data also showed that many schools in the Los Angeles area that once had large
bilingual programs are in for significant change in the wake of the proposition.
Last school year, there were at least 286 campuses in the district with 100 or more
students in bilingual programs. This year, the preliminary data show, there were just
43 schools that received 100 or more requests for bilingual education.
In more than half of the campuses that previously had 100 students in bilingual
education, not one petition for bilingual education had been received as of mid-October.
One such school was Canoga Park Elementary. In 1997-98 there were 555 students in
that school in bilingual classes. This year the school has received no petitions for
Forrest Ross, a district official who oversees implementation of Proposition 227, was
principal at the school until recently. When asked why there appears to be little
momentum for bilingual education at his former school, Ross suggested that many
parents are still weighing their options.
Indeed, district Supt. Ruben Zacarias said he did not view the initial data as a repudiation
of bilingual education. Instead, he said parents have grown tired of the controversy and
are simply searching for a middle road.
"I can't speak for why parents chose one option versus another," Zacarias said. "But my
intent in the process was to give parents clear options."
The most popular option so far has been Model B.
"I believe that many parents believe they are getting the best of both worlds in Model B,"
said Liliam Castillo, deputy superintendent of instruction and curriculum. "These are
parents who believe this is a new way of teaching and want to try it out, give it a shot."
In February, the district will begin shifting curriculum and resources, adjusting
budgets and moving staff to where students will ultimately settle. Officials have already
already begun talks with textbook publishers about swapping or repurchasing about $5
million worth of Spanish-language materials that became superfluous in the aftermath
of Proposition 227.
Finally, the data released this week showed the enduring popularity of a specialized form
of bilingual education known as "dual immersion," in which English speakers typically
are taught Spanish and Spanish speakers learn English.
In addition to the other waiver requests, there were 784 petitions for students to
continue in dual immersion classes in at least 11 schools.
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