The Learning Curve is a weekly column that answers questions about schools using plain language. Have a question about how your local schools work? Write to Mario.Koran@voiceofsandiego.org or Rachel.Evans@voiceofsandiego.org.
A few weeks ago, I attended a KPBS and Public Radio International presentation called A Community Conversation: What Does it Mean to Be an Immigrant Student in San Diego? One of my favorite radio hosts, Marco Werman of PRI’s “The World,” moderated the event.
During the Q-and-A session, Joseph Ekyoci, a student at Hoover High School, who said he arrived in the U.S. only a few years ago, asked a question that fascinated me.
Question: “Why are immigrant students required to learn two languages at the same time?” – Joseph Ekyoci, student at Hoover High.
Starting with the class of 2016, all students in San Diego Unified need to pass two years of a foreign language in order to graduate, unless they’re able to pass a test proving they know enough to bypass the classes. But testing out of the language requirement isn’t likely for students who haven’t had much formal schooling.
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The solution is simple, i.e., create a test bank for all languages represented in the school district, so that the foreign students can test out.in the language they already speak. How hard can it be to translate the different versions of the English Language Proficiency Test into all the languages represented in the district? It is mindboggling to me [how] the district is taking a simple problem with a simple solution and turning it into a complex problem with seemingly no solution.
And doing that for each language is not going to be that expensive considering the availability of technology and access to school boards in the various foreign countries to coordinate the translations. However, the problem must be overly exaggerated in order for it to be allocated huge amounts of financial resources, that will be misused for the most part, so that the problem stays for as long as possible to milk the system.
It is difficult for English Learners to be proficient enough in tow languages to graduate. However if the requirement is waived for certain students then there is not equal education for graduates. If you waive the two language requirement why not waive the math requirement. How about Physical Education. The let's waive U. S. History as they are native born Americans. No to all of these. As difficult as it is for foreign born students to pass all the required classes, they must continue to try or to not graduate. The diploma must stand for something besides giving in to all the diverse groups who want extra accommodation
No doubt it is tough to be an immigrant. My grandparents (all four) were and one of them never learned English. They question is 'what do we expect from high school graduates?' and 'what are we willing to pay to accommodate those that are not mainstream?'
It is not so easy to manage a high school / middle school staff. You need to balance the budget, class size, teaching credentials, and the constraints of the union. These conspire to create a situation that aims education at the mainstream.
If your school has a large population and low income, you have the most flexibility as a principal. You can push class sizes lower with your Title 1 money and you have a critical mass to offer less common courses to a small percentage of the student body.
If you are a middle class, small school you have the worst scenario. You get enough money to have +33 pupils per classroom. You don't have enough money to offer several foreign languages (or other electives). You don't have a staff with a variety of credentials allowing you to move a teacher to different subjects or academic rigor levels (AP vs. non-AP) year by year to balance the changing demands of the population.
We are a nation built on immigrants. We have been more accommodating to immigrants than many other countries. However, it has never been easy.