Proponents of bilingual education turned out in force at Tuesday night’s Adams 14 school board meeting in Commerce City, in support of a program that has been phased out by the school district.
Two years ago, under a previous superintendent, the district partnered with education researchers from CU Boulder and launched a cutting edge kindergarten through 12th grade plan to prepare students to be literate in both Spanish and English.
But the school district, which is predominantly Latino, is ending the relationship with the researchers before the program has reached fourth and fifth grade classrooms district-wide, as had been originally envisioned.
Critics of this move lay the blame at the feet of the new superintendent, Dr. Javier Abrego, who came to Adams 14 a year ago. Prior to moving to Colorado, he served as a school district superintendent at a district in Arizona. Bilingual education is prohibited in that state, instead, students are put into “English immersion” programs. California and Massachusetts recently repealed their prohibitions on bilingual education. Arizona remains the only state in the country that still mandates English immersion education.
Education researchers from CU Boulder, the University of Denver and advocacy groups like the Colorado Association of Bilingual Education, have spoke out about Adams 14’s phasing out of the K-12 bilingual program. Jose Garcia, the Executive Director of CABE says that research has shown that a comprehensive bi-lingual program is the best for students.
“What we’ve seen in Colorado is that the districts that have done more with native language instruction and developmental bilingual programs are the districts that have seen the greatest increase in academic achievement for their emerging bilingual students. So Commerce City, just have to look a little bit south and see how Denver Public Schools, who has been moving slowly, very slowly but moving towards more developmental and dual language programs, their students are the ones in the state who last year experienced the greatest increase in achievement.”
Garcia says bilingual education is a civil rights issue that has far reaching impacts outside of the classroom.
“When students are denied a meaningful education, they are denied the civil rights that other students have across the country. This really is a civil rights issue for us because education is definitely a civil right. What happens is when we take students and deny the right to become bilingual and bi-literate, we are actually removing an asset that they have in favor of something that is less. So if I come to you with a strength, that strength of having another language, and you take that away from me and give me only English, you have removed part of my upbringing, you have removed part of my history, you have removed part of my culture, and the impact that can have on families, on individuals on entire communities and cultures is something that is negative and well documented.”