Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Problem? English. Could the Cure Be Spanish?

Actually, native English speakers are sometimes in the same boat as these English learners. They have simply not been exposed to a broad range of words and ideas in oral discussions, and they hit a wall when they are suddenly expected, at about fourth grade, to be able to decode words and understand concepts that they have never seen in print before.

Middle class kids usually have no trouble making this leap because their parents have enriched them with daily discussions and a broad range of experiences. But intellectual discussions between parents and kids is not part of the culture of many working class families, and sometimes parents are working too many hours to have time to talk to kids. Schools have to fill in the deficit before kids can progress.

It's silly to be pushing kindergarteners to start reading when what they really need is to think and understand and speak. For many kids, mastery of written English would happen sooner if it were started later. The kids discussed in the article below would have been better off if they'd received instruction in critical thinking skills in a language they understood when they were in the early years of school. The problem isn't just vocabulary and grammar, it's grasping the world of ideas.

In Castle Park Elementary School, a kindergarten teacher lost her job because her class of English learners needed instruction in basic concepts, and she gave it to them. The other two kindergarten teachers demanded that the principal get rid of her because she wasn't teaching beginning reading skills.

The Problem? English. Could the Cure Be Spanish?

November 18, 2010
by Emily Alpert

Alexis Rodriguez has gone to California schools since kindergarten. The 13-year-old jokes with other kids in English between lessons. Some of his classmates groan when asked to write in Spanish.

They don't look like the English learners you might imagine when the phrase pops up, the kids new to the country and struggling to speak English at all. Most of them have spent at least five years in the United States. And yet Rodriguez and his classmates are still grappling with English fluency.

Nearly 40 percent of English learners in San Diego Unified fail to become fluent by the time they reach middle school. Now, schools are starting to eye them, zeroing in on what holds them back.

They're called "long-term English learners," students who still fall short of fluency after five or six years in U.S. schools. Like Rodriguez and his classmates, they can gab easily in English, but run into trouble with more sophisticated reading and writing in school. They make up almost 60 percent of English learners in California middle and high schools, one study found, belying the idea that newcomers are the big problem.

Pacific Beach Middle School is testing one way to tackle their needs, a way that might seem odd at first glance. To help seventh and eighth graders who still struggle with English, it is bulking up their skills in both Spanish and English. They take an extra class that teaches them Spanish vocabulary and grammar, then ties it back to what they're learning in English.

The idea is that once tweens better understand the grammar and structure behind Spanish, they can better translate that savvy to English. Principal Julie Martel and her teachers found that many of their students who were behind in English were also weak in Spanish, even though they speak it at home. Most had never been schooled in Spanish at all.

"They're illiterate in their native language," Martel said...

Traffic accidents costly for school district

Traffic accidents costly for school district
San Diego Union-Tribune
By Ashly McGlone
November 18, 2010

The Chula Vista Elementary School District has paid nearly $27,000 to settle claims involving five traffic accidents over the past two years.

According to district documents, four vehicles were sideswiped and three were rear-ended. Most of the incidents happened on Hilltop Drive, where Hilltop Elementary, Hilltop Middle and Hilltop High schools are located within one mile of each other.

An average of $3,800 was paid per claim.

District spokesman Anthony Millican said the number of accidents is minimal given the more than 190 district vehicles in operation.

“We take safety very seriously,” Millican said. “If the driver is investigated by the CHP (as in the case of all school bus accidents), the driver is put on administrative leave until it is resolved.”

Some 109 school buses operate in the state’s largest elementary school district, which educates more than 27,000 students.

Not all accidents involved school buses, though.

Bus drivers in the district are paid between $16.46 and $20.89 per hour and are required to have a high school diploma or equivalent and must hold a valid commercial driver’s license and a California School Bus Driver Certificate. They also must maintain a good driving record, among other qualifications.

Luci Fowers, 2007 CA Charter School Principal of the Year

Luci Fowers taught at Castle Park Elementary and Sunnyside in Chula Vista Elementary School District.

Luci Fowers, 2007 CA Charter School Principal of the Year
See video

Luci is now at Goethe International Charter School in Los Angeles.

Ms. Fowers is currently the Chief Education Officer and has previously served as the Principal of Albert Einstein Academies. In 2007 she was elected as the Charter Principal of the year by the CCSA. Ms. Fowers has also worked as an elementary school teacher for 9 years. She earned a Masters of Arts with a Focus on: Curriculum and Instruction Development from the San Diego State University in 2000.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Who cares about kids at CVESD?

Chula Vista Elementary School District cut the number of days that teachers were paid to prepare for the current school year. The union, Chula Vista Educators (part of CTA), told teachers not to do any preparation other than what they were paid for. Teachers who obeyed were stressed and disoriented for quite a while at the beginning of the year, and considerably less effective than they normally would have been. Some union leaders just don't use their heads, and neither do the teachers who follow like sheep. I think the union should have accepted that teachers would need to prepare on their own time, then, if it felt it had to take some action, it should have planned a sick-out later in the year. Instead, a great deal of harm was caused for no apparent gain. CVE proved that some teachers are willing to damage the education of children, and it also proved that the school board is willing to harm the education of children. I have long said that there are big problems in Chula Vista, but even I was disappointed at this turn of events.