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Story - Education

Jan 28, 2009 12:03 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton considers future of dual-language education

Jan 28, 2009 12:03 PM

Parents showed up in droves at Tuesday night’s Southampton School Board meeting to take sides on the future of dual-language education in the school district.

The dual-language program is designed to give some elementary school students—a mix of students whose primary language is either English or Spanish—the chance to learn in classrooms where lessons are taught in English and Spanish on alternating days, teaching both languages through immersion. Now in its fourth year, the program’s fate is up in the air as the School Board is considering whether it is economically feasible to include it in the 2009-10 school budget.

The program cost about $135,000 this year, which covers the salary and benefits of three teacher’s assistants. If the program continues next year without modification, an additional teacher’s assistant will need to be hired.

The program also requires two copies of each textbook for students—one in English and one in Spanish. In the past, the district has also hired consultants to develop the program.

Besides the cost, the district is also weighing the program’s academic value and effect on the district’s culture.

Parents who addressed the School Board on Tuesday had mixed opinions on dual-language, though the crowd as a whole seemed most supportive of speakers in favor of the program. But critics said the program creates animosity because there is only limited enrollment; others maintained that the district should instead be concentrating on math, science and languages other than Spanish, because America faces stiffer competition from India, Japan and China than from Spanish-speaking countries.

Dr. Jim Brady, on the other hand, spoke Tuesday and said he frequently uses Spanish while working in the emergency room and has never had to speak Japanese.

Another parent, Michael Mosolino, told the board he felt uneasy about the program when it started, but that has changed. “It seems to me what we have here is a damn success,” he said.

Dual-language is offered from kindergarten through fourth grade, but only about 20 English-speaking students and an equal number of Spanish-speaking students are accepted in each grade. Participation in the program is optional, and seats are distributed by lottery. Students who do not win a seat are put on a waiting list. Students learn all subjects, including math and science, in both languages.

The fourth-grade dual-language students’ experience is different from that of the younger students. Rather than switching between a Spanish-speaking teacher and an English-speaking teacher, they have both teachers in the classroom at once. That is how the program was initiated back in 2005, when only first-graders—this year’s fourth-grade class—participated.

“I think we’re learning as we’re going,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. J. Richard Boyes said.

A question that needs to be answered now, he said, is how the program will be taken into the fifth grade.

For the first-, second- and third-grade sections of the dual language program, a teacher’s assistant is placed in each classroom to translate and help students get acclimated, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Nick Dyno explained Friday. The same goes for the kindergarten, but all kindergarten classes have teaching assistants anyway, so there is no added staffing expense, he said. There is the additional expense of two teachers in the fourth-grade classroom, who alternate lessons in the two languages.

Mr. Dyno presented an interim report on Tuesday of the Academic Advisory Committee’s dual-language subcommittee. There is no in-depth study completed yet; only a compilation of parent and faculty opinions on the program. Because standardized testing only starts in third grade, the district has no objective assessment data to determine how the dual-language students are performing academically compared to other students, Mr. Dyno said.

When the district started the program, the School Board and administrators knew they would not see academic results for five to seven years, he added.

Dr. Boyes said New York State education law requires the district to meet the needs of students who don’t speak English as their native language with an English as a Second Language program. One goal of the dual-language subcommittee is to clarify what the district is doing that is mandated and what the district chooses to do beyond what the law requires, such as offering the “two-way” program that is open to native English speakers as well as Spanish speakers.

The subcommittee is also identifying the pros and cons of the program and the concerns parents have raised, such as cost, access and equity, the superintendent said. “Right now we have greater demand than we’re able to satisfy,” he said.

Mr. Dyno said three of the five grades that currently have dual-language education sections have waiting lists.

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It's just wrong.
Is it not bad enough that they use our social and medical services and pay no taxes.
Why should folks like me pay school tax to teach a kid in his or her native language when the fact is their parents do not pay any taxes (they are probably here illeagaly)and work jobs like landscape and construction for CASH.
I must opine that does not benifit our tax base nor school system in any way whatsoever.
By Boomer (6), southampton on Jan 28, 09 5:57 PM
Boomer

i would imagine the 'kids' parents are paying rent someplace and that rent pays the property taxes, which fund the school no? Maybe we shouldn't let anyone who rents send their kids to public schools then.

Oh, and are 'folks like you' receiving a special tax to fund this program or do folks like me and 'they' also share the cost?




By C Law (354), Water Mill on Jan 29, 09 6:22 PM
The problem is the ultra liberal school board. This program never should have been funded as taxpayer money should be utilized for the benefit of all students, not just a select few because someone has their own agenda.
By Walt (292), Southampton on Feb 1, 09 10:58 AM
I think it is great to have dual language education. I have family near the area. My son is bi-lingual. I think it is a waste to have 2 books for the same course though. That is a waste of money. I travel the world and was in eastern europe and children there have one course in english each term to reinforce it. So, they learn are learning math and english with the same course.
By Stretch (1), Manahawkin on Feb 1, 09 12:22 PM
Boomer,
Every single word you wrote is a measure of your ignorance. Bilingual education serves many purposes, you are probably just a victim of media myths. I would highly encourage you to research valid sources before presenting your ideas in public that just put us Americans to shame.
By Vicky01 (1), San Antonio on Feb 2, 09 2:55 PM