Friday, January 02, 2009

Focus on opportunities, not barriers

By Gregorio Solano | SA Express-News Editorial
November 19, 2008

For more than 50 years, bilingual education has been faced with the growing problem of educating all bilingual learners appropriately.

For this reason, organizations such as the National Association of Bilingual Education (NABE) and the Texas Association of Bilingual Education (TABE) have taken on the role of advocating for the rights of language minority children, particularly Spanish- speaking students.

It is through advocacy groups like NABE and TABE that we aim to achieve the appropriate implementation of educational policies and effective bilingual-bicultural programs that promote equal educational opportunities and academic excellence for language minority students.

The team of bilingual teachers I work with at Kelly Elementary School in Pharr — including Beatriz A. Perez and Cynthia R. Palacios — believe it is extremely important that parents, educators, administrators and legislators become knowledgeable in this field to enhance bilingual programs in our schools and maximize student performance nationwide.

Research indicates that it is through dual-language enrichment education that students will have the opportunity to add one or more languages while fully developing their native language.

As the national bilingual study conducted by Wayne P. Thomas and Virginia P. Collier shows, dual-language enrichment programs demonstrate promise for closing the academic achievement gap between bilingual learners and native English speakers.

It is our opinion that we must acknowledge this fact and approach this issue in a sensitive way. Even though we know that this is a phenomenal challenge, it should not be used as an excuse to hide behind it.

With a positive attitude as our driving motivator, we must face this problem by preparing all children to become bilingual and bicultural students who will one day become the leaders of tomorrow.

As teachers in a district that implements dual-language instruction in the elementary level, we commit ourselves to the belief that ethnicity, income and language are challenges rather than obstacles in our student’s education.

This is why we ask all parents, educators, administrators, and legislators to take on a “no excuse” approach in education.

We must remember that when our children are taught through enrichment dual-language programs, they will not only gain powerful literacy skills in their second language, but will continue to develop these same skills in their first language.

As a result, their bilingualism and literacy will allow them the flexibility to attend college, work across borders and communicate successfully in a wide range of communities.

Gregorio Solano has worked as a fifth grade teacher in the Hidalgo Independent School District in the Rio Grande Valley for five years.

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