Dual language in Palomino strategy
Improvement plan presented
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 26, 2003 12:00 AM
A request to expand a dual language program is part of Palomino Elementary
School's strategy to raise its low rating with the Arizona Department of
Palomino Principal Elyse Minzer presented the school's improvement plan at
Thursday's Paradise Valley Unified School District board meeting.
The district made a controversial decision last fall to restrict the program to
students fluent in English. Three out of four students at the 1,200-student
school speak a language other than English at home. Depending on their English
skills, students are placed in one of three programs: dual-language, literacy
Minzer presented data detailing how much the students' test scores had improved
since the beginning of the school year. But there were differences between the
dual-language and the literacy programs.
"Though both language groups showed incredible progress, the dual-language
program did demonstrate higher gains," Minzer said.
A few community members attempted to resurrect the debate over the district's
decision regarding the dual-language program.
Attorney Suzanne Dallimore, who is working with a number of Spanish-speaking
parents, told the district it might have violated the state's open meeting law
by deciding behind closed doors.
Minzer has resigned from the school to take a similar position with the Deer
Valley Unified School District. When she announced to her staff last week that
she would not return as principal, she said the year had been difficult,
especially with the last-minute changes to the dual-language program. She told
staff members that she hoped the data presented at the board meeting would help
the district reconsider its policy on dual-language enrollment.
A number of parents seemed upset by Minzer's decision and demanded to know from
board members if the school's new principal would be bilingual. The district has
posted the job as a bilingual position.
Palomino's comprehensive plan also included numerous suggestions on how to reach
its goal of improving AIMS scores 5 percent in each of the three test areas:
reading, writing and math. For example, students work on a math "Problem of the
Day" during the school's breakfast program.
The improvement plan also includes English classes for parents and students,
on-site preschool programs, and a "welcome center" to acclimate new families and
Palomino is one of two district schools to receive an "underperforming" rating
last fall. Across the state, there were 275 underperforming schools. If a school
receives a low rating two years in a row, it could face a state takeover.
Reporter Kristen Go contributed to this article.