Thursday, July 24, 2014
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EDIT: Spare the Spanish program

State officials are looking to scrap a dual language program that emphasizes making students fluent in both Spanish and English at Dever Elementary School in Dorchester, one of the most diverse towns in the Boston area.

According to a state report from this year about the Dever School, the overemphasis on Spanish has played a major role in the school’s low test scores. However, in a town where the majority of residents are minorities, one would think fluency in another language as popular as Spanish would be emphasized, rather than discouraged.

This dual-language program was started five years ago because teachers of Dever Elementary believed it would not only give native English-speakers a leg up in their community, but that it would also be advantageous for English-speaking families.

According to the state report, this school spent a lot of time and effort revamping and translating a good portion of their instructional material to Spanish. Despite this effort, the state review report shows inconsistent instruction and achievement among student from different classrooms, and found that many students are not learning at the appropriate grade level.

Being able to speak another language, especially Spanish, is one of the most valuable skills a person can have to move forward in a professional and social environments. If something as valuable as this program is cut, it is worth the effort to fix it rather than scrap it all together.

If students are consistently scoring low in English, math or other subjects, then there is something wrong with those programs, and it is not fair to blame this short-falling on an unrelated subject.

In a Monday Boston Globe article, Roger Rice of Multicultural Education, Training and Advocacy described the effort to scrap the dual-language program as a “really bad, intellectually bankrupt, tone-deaf decision.” He said this was the kind of action he would instead expect in more conservative states such as Alabama and Arizona — not in a state like Massachusetts where there is such a growing Latino population.

In many non-English speaking countries in Europe and Asia, kids still grow up learning English. Americans, however, cannot continue to isolate children by cutting foreign language programs.

Not only would emphasizing an English-only approach be detrimental to communication inside and outside of Dorchester, but it also suggests a sense of xenophobia as well. It leaves one to think if the reaction to this program would be different if it were focused on a language associated with more elite, developed countries, rather than Latin America.

By being in a school with such an emphasis on learning Spanish, Dorchester school kids already have a leg up on those who are never exposed to a new language, or against those who wait to take a language class just to mindlessly fulfill a requirement for their major in college.

 

Dever Elementary School should not take the privilege of being immersed in a new language at a young age away from their kids. Being able to communicate with others across cultural barriers is not only efficient, but a vital aspect to our country.

 

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