Proposition 227 now the rule for schools |

Proposition 227 now the rule for schools

Despite more than 1,200 students in the Lake Tahoe Unified School District who speak English as a second language, the district will continue offering English-based instruction as mandated by Proposition 227 – a California law requiring public schools to conduct instruction in English.

According to Sue O’Connor, LTUSD’s bilingual coordinator, Spanish-speaking students make up about one-quarter of the district’s student population.

At some LTUSD schools, the percentage is higher.

At 65 percent, Bijou Community School has the highest percentage of limited English proficient students in the district. Al Tahoe rates second with an estimated 35 percent Spanish-speaking student population, while Sierra House, Tahoe Valley and Meyers Elementary have only a handful of limited English proficient students. South Tahoe Middle School and South Tahoe High reflect the district’s numbers at 25 percent.

Assistant Superintendent Barbara Davis said the availability of public transportation and affordable housing in the center of town has caused the concentration of Spanish-speaking students at Bijou Community and Al Tahoe Elementary schools.

Davis added that there is a significant population of Filipino students in the school district.

But O’Connor said they tend to come into the schools knowing more English than the Spanish-speaking students because they usually are not newcomers to the United States. However, members of the Latino community are often new to the country and haven’t had the exposure to the language.

O’Connor said, since the implementation of Prop 227 in June 1998, the district has been using two different teaching methods to address the issue.

“We have some classes that are mixed with students who speak Spanish and some who speak English,” she said. “Others are keeping the students separate.”

She said both programs have advantages. Mixing the students allows for better social development and keeping them separate can foster a more effective learning environment for some students.

Whatever method, the students are hearing more English in the classrooms.

“The programs we’re offering now are determined by Prop 227,” Davis said.

Though the district’s bilingual programs have been dropped, O’Connor said Prop 227 hasn’t forced all of the Spanish out of the classroom.

“We never took the stance that we shouldn’t have any Spanish in the classroom,” O’Connor said. “We use English for direct instruction, but we’ll still use Spanish if they need help understanding the concept – especially in the higher grades when the lessons are more abstract like in math, science or social science.”

O’Connor said the school district employs many teachers who are state certified for teaching students who speak English as a second language. In addition, the district conducts regular training sessions for teachers.

O’Connor said she’s happy with the progress of the students.

“Of course we always want to see them do better and we want them to be there faster but they need the time,” said O’Connor.

O’Connor said it takes about five to seven years, depending on a child’s background, to reach a level of proficiency with the English language.

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