English immersion program set at DPS
By Eric Hubler
Denver Post Education Writer
Friday, December 20, 2002
Denver Public Schools will expand the ways Spanish-speaking kids learn
English next year, the district's
chief academic officer, Sally Mentor Hay, said Thursday.
Hay told the school board she hopes to launch an approach she called
"supported immersion" in at least four schools in the fall.
Hay's plan has some similarities to the "structured immersion" proposed in
a constitutional amendment that voters rejected in November.
The difference, Hay said, is that even though her plan would have young Spanish
speakers functioning in English from their very first day in school, Spanish
would not be totally banned from the classroom.
By contrast, the amendment, which was backed by California businessman Ron Unz
and former Denver school board member Rita Montero, would have made English the
sole language of instruction for all students in Colorado public schools,
regardless of language background.
"You recognize the fact that they aren't native English speakers, so you can't
just teach your science lesson as if everyone grew up knowing these terms," Hay
said. "It's a kinder version."
Now, DPS teaches basics to many of its native Spanish speakers in Spanish first,
moving them to English in three years.
That plan also should continue to be offered to parents, Hay said.
"We know that there are multiple ways of addressing this problem," she said. "A
really good supported immersion program works. A really good native-language
reading and writing first program really works."
But even the three-year plan needs a major tune-up, Hay said. She said teachers
in the program, called English Language Acquisition, have told her they lack a
Also Thursday, the board heard proposals to expand programs for high-achieving
students. Smiley Middle School in northeast Denver asked to start an
International Preparatory magnet for students in northeast Denver interested in
advancing to the selective International Baccalaureate program at George
Washington High School.
DPS's current International Preparatory program, at Hamilton Middle School, has
reached capacity at more than 400 students. Smiley is under-enrolled and could
easily absorb 100 to 120 more students, DPS
officials said. Busing them to Smiley would cost $70,000 a year.
District staffers also asked the board to boost the elementary-school highly
gifted program from six sites to seven. Adding Carson Elementary would cost
$35,000 in busing, they said.