Illinois now requires public schools with preschools to offer bilingual classes to students who aren’t fluent in English, reports the Chicago Tribune. Students are supposed to learn “basic academic skills in their native language as they learn English.”
By 2014, teachers in bilingual preschool classes must be certified in bilingual instruction or English as a second language in addition to early childhood education. There aren’t many teachers with dual certification, so many schools are relying on Spanish-speaking aides.
That sort of compromise — bilingual ed without a bilingual teacher — was common in California before the voters required most classes to be taught in English. It means the neediest children are taught by the least educated adult in the room.
Many school districts are cutting preschool programs for lack of funding. The bilingual mandate, which includes no money to pay for teacher training, increases the pressure.
“What we don’t want to do is just throw children into an English-speaking program without any support when they are supposed to learn reading, writing and arithmetic. That’s really our major concern,” said Barbara Bowman, the acting chief officer of early childhood education for Chicago Public Schools.
At Edwards Academy for Young Learners, teacher Tania Miranda lifted a copy of Eyes, Nose, Fingers and Toes by Judy Hindley.
“Cómo se dice ‘head’ en Español?” she asked. “La cabeza,” they called in response.
Miranda, who speaks English and Spanish, is completing her bilingual teaching certificate. She spends about 90 percent of her day in Spanish, but she teaches students the letters in both languages, sings songs in both languages and gives them books in both languages when possible.
The immigrant parents I know sent their children to preschool to learn English and practice talking with native speakers before they started on reading, writing and arithmetic.