Thursday, December 14, 2006
Students in Carolina Duncan's binlingual class
Bilingual education put to the test in federal court
Updated: 12/4/2006 7:26:44 PM
By: Hermelinda Vargas
The Austin Independent School District considers Oak Hill Elementary teacher Carolina Duncan to be one of its best bilingual teachers.
Duncan trains other teachers and said her efforts show on the TAKS test and on her students' overall success.
"I have a lot of students that come having a lot of hardship with
reading. And when they leave first grade, they're on level, which
means they're reading very well, 60 words per minute, or even
they read at second or third grade level," Duncan said.
But not all Texas bilingual teachers can count the same successes. That's part of the reason why the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) is suing the state.
The lawsuit claims accountability measures put in place for the
general population of students is not there to help students in
It names the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the State Board of Education as defendants.
"English language learners are failing. They're being retained in the grade levels and they're being eventually pushed out of the schools that are meant to educate them. And the state isn't doing anything about it," David Hinojosa of MALDEF said.
MALDEF sued the state of Texas in 1971 for similar reasons and won. But Hinojosa said the court victory didn't translate in
"The state has retracted on many of of its monitoring obligations. You know, the Legislature used to require on-site monitoring and now on-site monitoring is done very minimally," he said.
MALDEF points to TAKS test results posted by the Texas
Education Agency that show large gaps between students in bilingual programs and their peers. The passing gap widens beginning in fifth grade.
For example, only 18 percent of seventh graders in bilingual programs passed the TAKS test. The passing rate for all seventh
graders was 64 percent.
Duncan said that will not happen with her students. She expects them to do well in middle school and in high school.
"When I see the students changing from not knowing, or
understanding, not even what a word is, or how you make it or how you say it into writing full paragraphs, it just gives me
chills. I love it," she said.
Now it's up to a federal judge to decide if the same kind of
learning is happening in every bilingual classroom.
The Attorney General's office represents the state in this case and declined to interview.