Special program for immigrant students?

I found this article interesting and thought I’d share with you guys. I’m really interested in what you would think of this. Do you agree with the idea of putting ESL students into a different track?

[i]Best way to teach English skills argued

By Laurel Rosenhall – Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:01 am PDT Saturday, July 15, 2006

A high-decibel debate among education officials,politicians and advocates of bilingual schooling thatled to the recent yanking of funds from the stateBoard of Education boils down to one difficultquestion:How should California teach roughly a quarter of thestate’s public school population – students who arenot native English speakers – how to read and write?The persistent issue moved into the spotlight lastweek when former governors Gray Davis and Pete Wilsonurged Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to resist bilingualactivists and stick with California’s current approachto teaching English learners how to read and write.There is no argument that a solid grounding in thoseskills is essential to success; they open the gate toalmost everything else students will learn. And bothsides agree that students must learn to read and writein English, as mandated by Proposition 227 in 1998.But even in English-only public schools, there’scontroversy over how best to reach students who aretypically among the poorest-performing in the state.One side insists students new to English should learnto read and write in a way that’s geared towardnon-native English speakers. They’ve yet to developspecifics, but advocates say the approach wouldincorporate more pictures, written passages withsimple syntax, common vocabulary and less academicEnglish.The other side demands all children learn to read andwrite the same way, whether English is native to them or they’re just learning the language.They argue that reading and writing lessons geared forEnglish learners would amount to state-sanctionedsegregation.“Why would we then give them something different from,less than, what native English speakers get? It’s anequity issue,” said Dale Webster, a policy consultantwith the state Board of Education.He helped develop an approach the Board of Educationapproved in April that calls for first- throughfifth-graders to learn reading and writing the sameway during 2 to 2? 1/2 hours a day. The programincludes an extra 30 minutes of instruction, tailoredto non-native speakers, to learn English.But advocates of an approach rejected by the Board ofEducation say non-native speakers should be taughtEnglish while taking lessons on reading and writing.They say dividing the English-learning time from othercourses doesn’t make sense and takes too much time.Under the method approved by the Board of Education,said Maria Quezada, executive director of theCalifornia Association for Bilingual Education,students new to English must sit through a two-hourreading lesson they don’t understand before they get a30-minute lesson that’s comprehensible.“Why are we using an English-language arts programthat’s made for English speakers, not Englishlearners?” she asked.The approach bilingual advocates prefer – known asOption VI – was supported by the Legislature’s Latinocaucus and the Association of California SchoolAdministrators, which represents principals andsuperintendents.The approach would be used only in classroomsdominated by immigrant children. And it would be achoice for districts, not a requirement. There is noneed to worry that the approach would segregateschools, advocates say.“This segregation business – that’s baloney,” saidAssemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, D-Los Angeles. "Theonly districts that would buy these materials are theones that are overwhelmingly English learners."But creating equality among schools was the wholepoint behind academic standards in the 1990s, saidMarion Joseph, a former Board of Education member. Shewas on the board when it approved standards meant toraise achievement and expectations.“The commitment that those standards would be forevery child, that’s the No. 1 piece,” Joseph said."That’s a commitment that had never been made before,and taking that very seriously and making sure it’snot just hypocrisy took a lot of thought andresearch."In her eyes, a reading and writing curriculum that’sdifferent in an immigrant community than it is in anaffluent white community defeats the whole point ofstandards.Others say the state can uphold the same standards forall children but permit them to reach those standardsalong different paths.As an example, they point to an elementary school bookthat tells the story of a friendship between twogirls, Chrysanthemum and Delphinium.“For a second-language learner, those names are almostimpossible to say and the fact that their names areflowers is completely lost on the kids,” said ShellySpiegel-Coleman of the Los Angeles County Office ofEducation.She would prefer a book that tells the friendshipstory whose characters have easier names.Webster, of the Board of Education, said it’simportant to expose children to academic English andsophisticated vocabulary from an early age to preparethem for the upper grades when they are expected tounderstand history and science texts.The fight now turns to the Legislature and Gov. ArnoldSchwarzenegger. Senate Bill 1769 by Sen. MarthaEscutia, D-Whittier, would require the Board ofEducation to develop an approach to teaching readingand writing that incorporates English instruction fornon-native speakers.The bill would restore funding to the state Board ofEducation. Democrats said they pulled the funding fromthe state budget in retaliation for the board’srejection of the proposed English learner curriculum.A Schwarzenegger spokeswoman said he had not yet takena position on the bill.[/i]

Many immigrant parents in the US don’t want their kids put into a different track. They say that bilingual education teaches their children to be “illiterate in two languages”.