Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bilingual buzz

The school districts in Illinois are all up in arms about achievement testing. No, this isn’t the typical rehash of “some bright children just don’t test well.” This is a more serious problem. Bilingual students are being measured by the same test as native students. And the test is in English.

Here’s a link to the guidelines and the accommodations that are allowed to non-English students:

The teachers and administrators are saying, “How can a child take a test in a language he doesn’t know?”

But what comes to the surface here is the true issue. Our schools are given tax money and a goal: To give children the skills they will need to function as productive citizens.

Can they be productive citizens without knowing English? Well, the libs are working on that but at this point the answer is NO. Workers who don’t speak English earn less than those who do. And participating in the democratic process is impossible without knowing English. Sure they can translate the ballot. They can even hold a few debates in Spanish. But to really understand the candidates and the nuances of the issues, one needs a command of the English language.

It is a requirement for graduation from high school all over the country that the student pass four years of English classes. Why? To prepare them as workers and citizens.

So, taking these achievement tests in English really are a true measure of the schools’ performance in preparing students. And No Child Left Behind has some pretty stiff penalties for schools that don’t perform. (I’m not really a fan of NCLB but this is a show worth watching. I can’t go to the movies on Friday nights AND pay my taxes, but federal programs DO have entertainment value.)

The typical bilingual program here in Illinois takes four or five years to complete because they aren’t really trying to teach English as quickly as possible. Teaching English is easy. Especially in the lower grades. You take a Second Grader and put him in front of the television for six months and he will know English. Two years in a bilingual program is TOO MUCH. Five years is a waste of talent and tax money.

But Bilingual Inc. has a different idea. They want to preserve the original culture and language of the student, then throw in some English over an extended period of time. And in the process they will destroy any confidence in Anglo/Western culture. (There’s always time in the day to bash WASPs.)

This five year process employs all sorts of specialists and moves the employees along the pay scale. These tests will take the wraps off this scam, won’t they?

There is a school district in Mundelein (Diamond Lake) that began teaching bilingual students primarily in English back in 2003. Spanish was used as a last resort to reinforce the English words. And they are outperforming their previous program as well as state averages.

Their reward? The state is threatening to withhold $175K in state and federal funding because the program does not qualify under the guidelines of teaching students in a language they can understand. Way to go, bureaucrats!

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