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Unified School Board May Approve District-Wide Biliteracy Programs

Audio

Aired 7/29/09

The San Diego Unified school board is leaning toward approving a proposed policy that would allow all students in the district access to full-spectrum biliteracy programs.

SDUSD Elsewhere

— The San Diego Unified school board is leaning toward approving a proposed policy that would allow all students in the district access to full-spectrum biliteracy programs.

The policy would allow the district to create more biliteracy programs: from high school language courses to elementary school programs that teach in a language other than English. All students would have the choice of signing up.

Currently, traditional public schools are required by law to follow an English-only instruction policy. However, there are exceptions.

Supporter Rosalia Salinas says programs that teach a language other than English would especially benefit the district's non-native English speakers.

"I think it's going to send a real clear message to our community that English learners have really special needs," Salinas said. "And those needs need to be addressed."

But school board member Katherine Nakamura [search] isn't convinced. She worries too many programs will be offered in Spanish. She also worries biliteracy programs will not be available in all of the district's neighborhoods. At the same time, Nakamura says the district shouldn't pressure kids into learning another language.

"Language acquisition is not everybody's thing," Nakamura said. "It's not what everybody really wants to do. And there's nothing worse than making a kid go through French irregular verbs, when they don't wanna."

But trustee John Evans [search] thinks it’s a good idea. He says students should be challenged at school.

"I think we have to look at language learning as an essential part of the curriculum," Evans said. "You can say, 'Not all kids are into learning another language,' but I've talked with many kids who are not all into algebra."

The school board still has many questions about the policy, including how the district would pay for more biliteracy programs and teachers. The board is expected to take up the issue again next week.

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