My old high school will go bilingual

More students are choosing bilingual education in Chicago’s North Shore, reports the Chicago Tribune. Highland Park High — my alma mater — will offer core subjects taught in English and Spanish in the next five years.

Officials say no standardized test fully illustrates the impact of the K-8 dual language program.

But school officials say data from various student achievement measures, as well as student and parent testimonials, show a clear benefit from native English and native Spanish speakers learning together in a dual-immersion environment where Spanish is the dominant language from kindergarten through second grade. By the time students reach fifth grade, classroom work is about 50-50 Spanish-English.

In my day, Highland Park High enrolled HP kids (middle or upper-middle class and often Jewish), Highwood kids (working class and Italian) and Fort Sheridan kids (lots of Southerners). Now, the fort has been turned into condos. I guess the Italians have moved up and out. More than 70 percent of students are Latino at Highwood’s Oak Terrace Elementary School. Districtwide, it’s about a quarter. Almost 15 percent of district students are in bilingual classes.

To better nurture the bilingual identity, Highland Park High will phase in dual language math, science and social studies classes over the next five years, Assistant Principal Tom Koulentes said. The school is about 18 percent Latino.

The district uses a double immersion model:  It mixes equal numbers (if possible) of native English speakers and native Spanish speakers. In kindergarten through second grade, students are taught in Spanish 80 to 90 percent of the time. “Your child’s going to get that English,” Jaime Barraza told parents at the informational meeting. “We need to get more Spanish in there.”

Bilingual students catch up in reading and math by fifth grade, said Barraza, who oversees the bilingual program.

So why do they need to learn math, science and social studies in Spanish in high school?

Too much Spanish = hostile environment?

An Arizona nursing student claims she was suspended for complaining that classmates disrupted classes by speaking Spanish. In her lawsuit, Terri Bennett, 50, said classmates spoke Spanish during lessons — apparently translating for non-English speakers — and primarily spoke Spanish during labs, clinicals and other activities. That made it hard for her to learn and created a “hostile environment,” she complained. In addition, the Pima Community College nursing program director called her a “bigot and a bitch,” she charged, before suspending her on charges of intimidation (arguing with an instructor about a test answer), discrimination and harassment.

Students complained that Bennett was harassing and intimidating them for having private conversations in Spanish, David Kutzler, the nursing program director, told the Daily Caller.  He denies calling Bennett a “bigot and a bitch.”

Fired teacher: ‘Negro’ is a color, not a slur

A Bronx teacher fired for calling a student “Negro” says she was teaching the Spanish words for colors at a bilingual middle school, reports the New York Post.

Petrona Smith, 65, a black native of the West Indies, was fired in 2012  and hasn’t worked since. Now she’s filed suit.

She also was accused of calling seventh-grade students “failures,” but claims in court papers that she merely asked students who’d failed a test to move to the back of the room.

She denied calling the student a “Negro,” and explained to investigators that she was teaching a lesson about how to say different colors in Spanish and said the word “negro,” which is Spanish for the color black. She told her students that it was not a derogatory term and that the Spanish word for a black person was “moreno.”

She added that she’d been verbally abused by her charges, including being called a “f—ing monkey,” a “cockroach” and a “n—r,” but had never stooped to their level.

One seventh grader complained about Smith and three others agreed she’d insulted her students.

Hat is 'hat'

From The Onion: Arizona High Schools To Now Teach Spanish Entirely In English

In other Onion news: Struggling High School Cuts Football — Nah, Just Kidding, Art It Is

Incomprehensible: Wisconsin history in Spanish

Elementary students in Waunakee, Wisconsin are learning social studies in Spanish — only parents say they’re learning neither the subject nor the foreign language, reports the Wisconsin State Journal.  Students don’t study Spanish on its own. They’re supposed to pick it up in context through three half-hour social studies classes  three days a week in first through fourth grades.

In the lower grades, there’s so little content in social studies classes — “community and family structure” are the themes –  that children’s lack of comprehension didn’t generate complaints.  But now the program has moved to fourth grade. Students are supposed to learn Wisconsin history in a language they don’t know.

(Parent Jean) Magnes said because of how the subject has been taught, students aren’t learning Spanish or history.

“They don’t enjoy (Spanish), don’t speak it,” she said.

Parents would support a Spanish class in elementary school, but officials say there’s not enough time in the school day.

Learning English in 2008

Ed Week’s Mary Ann Zehr recaps English learning stories of 2008.

You’ve got to love the One Semester of Spanish Love Song.