D65 explores how to expand bilingual program

District 65 board members are in agreement. The two-way Spanish-English immersion program, or TWI as it’s known, needs to be expanded.  What they can’t agree on yet is how, or where, new strands of the program should be offered.

A lengthy report presented at Monday night's school board meeting concludes at least two more TWI strands need to be added to the District. The report shows the classes are no longer equitably split between native Spanish speakers and native English speakers, and too many children are being turned away due to a lack of space. 

A small number of residents attended the meeting. One spoke in favor of expanding the program but with a caveat.  Oakton School parent Elizabeth Powley says the school board must do a better job of ensuring African American families are given the same chance to participate in TWI as other groups.

Powley cites the district's own statistics to illustrate what she calls a systemic problem with the lack of participation of African American families in TWI.

Powley said the inequity has been an issue since 2006.  The problem she says is exacerbated by the location of the TWI  programs, which are offered in largely Spanish-speaking neighborhoods, and the continued policy of the board giving preference to siblings of participants.  

How to make the program more equitable among all students is one of the many issues to board is grappling with.  

The TWI expansion has also raised concerns about busing students out of their neighborhood, staff changes and added costs. Despite all this, the expansion plan has to move quickly.  The board needs it in place by January so parents of school aged children can start planning enrollment for fall of 2018.

The board will have a preliminary discussion about how and where to expand the program at the meeting on Nov. 6. 

Another meeting to discuss staff recommendations and public input is scheduled for Nov. 20.

A vote on the specifics of the TWI expansion is scheduled for Dec. 4.

Topic: 

Comments

TWI

Hispanics who are separated from the majority of the students and sent to a doubtful program, TWI, are in my view, deprived of their right to a full immersion in English to be able to tackle higher ranking classes in high school.

It is well known that honor and AP classes are more likely to prepare students for college than regular classes. Whether they enroll in those courses or not should be their choice, not the choice of administrators who by diverting them to TWI are depriving them from the opportunity to accelerate their proficiency in English.

As one mother said in EvanstonNOW, “American students studying abroad in Europe and Japan enter (total) language immersion programs and learn quickly.”

Which brings us to the question, are students of Hispanic origin deemed less capable? 

If the TWI results were spectacular then we should all applaud.  But in a recent board meeting  board member Tracy Quattrrocki noted that TWI has NOT improved the “college readiness” of Hispanics in TWI and referred to a report that shows that “Hispanic eighth-graders who were English learners but who did not  participate in the TWI program did better (on tests) than TWI students.”

She said that ‘the data is “confusing and mixed” where some of the English learners were doing better when they were not in TWI than in TWI.’ 

However the district, undeterred, wants to enlarge the TWI program.

We should ask ourselves, why are not Asians in a TWI program also? Is it because they are more intelligent than Hispanics? How about Hindus, Polish, Romanians… other immigrant students? According to Evanston NOW, “There were 77 different native languages spoken among the district's student body.”  So we are to assume that most of those other students are more able than Hispanics to navigate the prevailing curriculum that Hispanics ever could?

Hispanics don’t come here to learn more Spanish. They come here seeking a better life, just like all of us immigrants. And learning the best English is one of the ways to get that better life.

I know too many Hispanics who are lingering in TWI who speak English well enough to be in regular classes. If we want our immigrants to truly take advantage of the opportunities offered in this country we should not curtail their potential by condemning them in a program that may be more stimulating and enriching to the English natives than ever the Hispanics.


Do you rely on Evanston Now for local news? Support independent journalism by becoming an Evanston Now member. Contribute monthly or just once.

Become a member