Monday, June 20, 2011

IDRA Guiding Principles on Texas Bilingual Education

These recommendations are timeless and they underscore just how far off our current de-funding policies are headed--to the tune of $4Billion! That is, if school funding is jeopardizing the status of public education, generally, how much more severe will this impact our growing population of English language learners and truly, Texas' historically progressive goal of at least waging the political battles that align to these principles laid out by San Antonio's tried and true Intercultural Development Research Association headed by my dear friend and colleague Dr. Cuca Robledo Montecel.


IDRA Guiding Principles on Texas Bilingual Education

Texas enrolls more than 800,000 students whose first language is not English and who, therefore, require specialized instruction to address their unique needs. Though there is some policy infrastructure to support the education of limited-English-proficient (LEP) elementary school students in Texas, additional improvements are needed, particularly as it relates to funding and requirements for services provided to secondary level English language learner (ELL) students. Texas must address the following.

Principle 1: All children should be provided all the resources needed to be successful in school, particularly ensuring access to equitable and excellent public schools accountable to their communities.

Principle 2: Federal courts (Lau vs. Nichols) and civil rights authorities (May 25th Office for Civil Rights) have ruled that providing the same (all-English) instruction to students with specialized needs is insufficient and thus is an inappropriate response for meeting the needs of ELL students, and that doing so violates equal protection requirements. Any new efforts must comply with the Lau provisions.

Principle 3: Research, including national analyses of best practices and state-level successful school studies, has established that LEP students require specialized instructional programs in order to have equal access to instruction and that bilingual education is the best means to ensure that equitable access to instruction is available for LEP students. Bilingual programs must be required at the state level and should never left as a local district option.

Principle 4: Texas bilingual education and English as a second language (ESL) policies for serving LEP students, though not perfect, provide the framework for delivering appropriate instruction to the state’s LEP students. ELL student performance levels at the secondary level, however, indicate that improvements to Texas’ secondary level ELL programs are critically needed. These secondary-level ELL program reforms include improved monitoring of ELL student identification and placement procedures and comprehensive staff development for all content area teachers who serve ELL students in their classrooms.

Principle 5: Lack of state education monitoring and oversight serves to undermine required implementation of bilingual education and ESL programs and supports inappropriate and/or total non-compliance with state and federal laws. Areas of concern include lack of compliance with LEP identification and placement procedures and lack of monitoring of program effectiveness, specifically at the school level.

Principle 6: Current Texas funding formulae for bilingual education and ESL program service delivery do not reflect actual costs for providing instructional services. In Texas and many other states, funding for LEP students is less than half of what research studies have indicated is needed to provide appropriate instructional programs; funding of LEP programs should be based on actual costs rather than arbitrary allocations.

Principle 7: Using funding weights as the mechanisms to deliver supplemental funding for LEP instruction is preferable to a fixed dollar amount approach. This mechanism provides automatic adjustments tied to any increases in regular program funding and eliminates the need to wage individual battles for increased funding for LEP instructional programs.

Principle 8: Other variations of bilingual instruction including late exit and dual language variations of bilingual education are permissible, as local option programs under existing state bilingual education and related dual language laws. However, existing programs required under state and federal mandates must be funded first, and any excess funding should be available to encourage second language proficiency among native English speaking students.

IDRA is an independent, private non-profit organization, directed by María Robledo Montecel, Ph.D., dedicated to strengthening public schools to work for all children. As a vanguard leadership development and research team for more than three decades, IDRA has worked with people to create self-renewing schools that value and empower all children, families and communities. IDRA conducts research and development activities, creates, implements and administers innovative education programs and provides teacher, administrator, and parent training and technical assistance.

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