Bilingual education changes on hold in Wapato
January 28, 2006


Proposed changes to Wapato School District's bilingual program that were supposed to take effect next week have been put on hold, Superintendent Art Edgerly said.

  Wapato school officials planned to make changes to the bilingual teaching method by the end of this month to help Spanish-speaking students learn English faster. The move was sparked by new state requirements that students take assessment tests in third grade.

  But state bilingual education officials are questioning whether Wapato's changes would work. Some parents also question the proposed changes, fearing they won't be able to help their children with homework in English.

  Now, the district will put off any changes until after officials from the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction visit the school district in March, Edgerly said.

  "We want them to come here and take a look at what we're doing now," he said.

  Meanwhile, school officials will talk with teachers and parents about the proposed changes, he said.

  "What we want to do is hear more from our staff, and our parents at the building level," Edgerly said. "We're trying to get a clear picture from each of our buildings of where we are at."

  Students in the bilingual program are taught in both English and Spanish, with more English employed as they advance.

  But that teaching method won't prepare most students by third grade to take assessment tests given in English, said Wapato bilingual director David Juarez.

  Under the proposed changes, students would be taught only in English, with help given in Spanish. Students would hear more English in class and learn faster, Juarez said.

  But before using that method, school districts must show they don't have enough bilingual teachers and enough students who need bilingual education, said Margaret Ho, acting state director of bilingual education.

  Edgerly, however, said Ho might not understand what Wapato has proposed doing. He said he hopes OSPI's visit will clear up any misunderstanding.

  Laws and regulations concerning bilingual education aren't always clear, said OSPI spokeswoman Shirley Skidmore.

  "There are several factors we'll have to take into consideration to see if what they want to do complies with the laws," she said. "We're going to take some time to do that."

  If anything, the school district and OSPI officials may devise a bilingual program that will better prepare students for earlier assessment tests, Edgerly said.