Parents fight for Chapman bilingual ed
“Don’t silence bilingual education at Chapman Elementary School,” was the message sent by more than 50 people who attended the Jan. 21 Chico Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting.
The district is considering ending the dual-immersion program at Chapman, even as classes combining native English- and Spanish-speakers continue at Parkview and Rosedale elementaries.
“The program is working. It’s getting academics done,” said Ana Porras, a Chico High School junior with a 4.0 grade point average who attended bilingual classes at Chapman. “I learned a lot about communicating with others, not only in my native language but also in English.”
Assistant Superintendent Alan Stephenson said on Jan. 27 that he expects to make his decision later this week. “Nothing’s finalized,” he said.
He said the district began considering modifying or discontinuing the program because Chapman’s dual-immersion program has a “unique” problem: The population is so transient that, by the time students reach the upper grades, there are more native Spanish than English speakers. Stephenson worries that with an imbalance of language groups, neither population is getting the most out of the program. Also, the other Chapman classes end up having a large number of Hmong students, detracting from students’ ability to experience a full mix of cultures.
Stephenson said the decision will hinge in part on test results he’s studying this week that compare students in Chapman dual-immersion classes to other Chapman students.
Margie Taresh, who teaches kindergarten at Rosedale but has a kindergartener and third-grader in the Chapman program, said, “We’re afraid [Stephenson] is not looking at the right data.” The parents have met with the administrator about the student ratios, as well as testing data, in recent weeks. “Even if the ratios are off, look at how [well] students are performing,” Taresh said.
At the meeting, Rachel Kendrick-Greywolf said that her son, Jesse, a fourth-grader, now speaks and writes fluent Spanish, and ending the program would set him back academically. "He could write you a letter in Spanish if you would like," she told the board.