In Madison, Wisconsin, a teen-age immigrant was placed in “bilingual” classes taught almost entirely in Spanish. Kiet Tran, now 15, speaks Vietnamese, as his stepfather, John Gardner told school officials. This is the part that astounds me: The educated, English-speaking stepfather could not get the boy moved to English-language classes.
Finally, the family moved out of the district, and enrolled Kiet in an intensive summer English class, where he won “most improved” honors. He’ll attend classes in English from now on.
In most cases, immigrant students have immigrant parents who lack the assertiveness and English fluency to make their case. A friend of mine made dozens of phone calls on behalf of her cleaning lady, who’d been unable to get her English-fluent third grader out of a “bilingual” class taught almost entirely in Spanish. Finally, pressured by an educated, English-speaking, middle-class woman, officials admitted the boy was proficient in English — he’d been taught in English in kindergarten, first and second grade — and let him switch classes. He’d lost half a year of education.