Chapman keeps dual immersion

Bilingual education will stay at Chapman Elementary School, but with some modifications.

The Chico Unified School District had been considering ending the dual-immersion program in recent weeks, a move that angered and concerned parents.

More than 50 parents and children came to the Jan. 21 CUSD Board of Trustees meeting to say how the program had helped them.

But on Feb. 3, Assistant Superintendent Alan Stephenson told Chapman staff that the program just needed to be changed to include more students and to educate them in the best possible way.

He was worried that the shift in the ratio of native Spanish-speakers to English-speakers had resulted in both populations not learning as well, jeopardizing the autonomy of the school, which has been tabbed by President George Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act for “program improvement.”

But Stephenson learned that the scores of children in the bilingual classes were no worse than their traditional classroom counterparts,

“If academics is a wash, I’d be foolish to drop the program,” he said this week.

Stephenson said it will be the Chapman staff, teachers and parents who must develop a new plan, perhaps looking to Parkview Elementary for inspiration. “This is theirs to deal with,” he said.

He suggested “creative juggling of students” in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades, when students transferring out of Chapman results in not enough English-speaking children in the classes. For example, since some academic subjects are taught in Spanish and others in English, a student in a traditional class who speaks English could be brought into a dual-immersion classroom to learn history in English, taught by a dual-immersion teacher.

Whatever approach Chapman decides upon will be implemented next school year.

Jill Quezada, a Chapman parent, said she hadn’t heard the specifics of the plan, but anything that retains the program and involves parents is a good move. "That is fantastic that he is actually letting the teachers and parents come up with a plan," she said.