|Monday, November 18, 2002
Do the math: Some 70,000 Colorado children struggling to learn English,
but only 3,200 teachers trying to help them.
It doesn't compute.
The number of native Spanish-speaking students more than tripled over the
past decade in Colorado, leaving school districts across the state
scrambling to find qualified teachers to teach kids English.
A new, $9.3 million federal grant will help remedy that and should be a
tremendous boost for those kids and their teachers.
Just a week after the defeat of the controversial Amendment 31, the
Colorado Department of Education was awarded the grant to overhaul how
English-acquisition programs in elementary and secondary schools are taught
and to recruit and train teachers.
Amendment 31, which would have scrapped bilingual education in favor of a
one-year English-immersion course, failed at the polls.
But its defeat should not be construed as a message from Coloradans that
bilingual education is working, or is the best way to teach immigrant
students English. Amendment 31 was too punitive and simply wasn't the right
answer to the ongoing dilemma of how we educate non-English-speaking
The new grant, the first of its kind given by the U.S. Department of
Education, will be instrumental in determining how students will be taught
over the next few years.
It doesn't spell out what type of instruction should be used, such as
bilingual education, but it does invest in teachers by offering in-service
classes for veteran instructors and training for new teachers at four
community colleges and eight four-year institutions.
At the end of the three-year grant, the goal is to have 700 to 1,000 more
teachers capable of dual-language instruction. Ideally, they will have
improved linguistic skills, so they can better teach other courses, such as
math and science.
The extra instruction is key to closing the learning gap, because Spanish
speakers consistently score low on state achievement exams. The grant also
will bring direct technical assistance into failing Colorado schools.
"We have teachers who meant well but lacked materials and resources,"
said Flora Camejos-Lenhart, director of the English Language Acquisition
Unit of the state education department.
"When there are 50 students and one (English-language learner) teacher,
there is not a lot of learning going on," she told The Post.
This grant won't end all of those problems, but it will help some
students by providing more technical assistance in classrooms and giving
teachers more training.
And a better-educated teacher usually means a better-educated child.