When I read Ms. Eager's comment, I immediately responded to her saying that I really hope I did not come across as being anti-bilingual education because I most certainly am not. I completely agreed with the points she made about the importance of literacy in one's native language. She made me realize that I really wanted to refine my ideas. I took one of my books off the shelf today and read up on the history of policy pertaining to ELL students including different types of language immersion, bilingual, and English only programs. As I read the arguments for teaching in English only, I did not feel those ideals matched my own. I am not at all favoring English as the 'better' language and I am certainly not in favor of monolingual-ism. I don't think that children who speak another language should let that language fall to the wayside in order to become proficient in English, nor should they have to 'assimilate' into the dominant culture. I think both languages should be nurtured. Bilingual and multilingual individuals, in my opinion, certainly have an advantage over people who only speak one language because they have the capacity to communicate with more people and that is a great thing! I was trying to come up with a solution that would ultimately bring ELL students closer to the district goals, yet I don't believe my initial attempt was the right way to go.
After doing some thinking, I decided that rather than suggesting to completely remove the Spanish Language Arts program that is still operating in three of our schools, I would prefer to 'refine' it. If the goal is to have students learn in their native language in order to foster a smoother transition to English, I do think that the program should incorporate both English and Spanish instruction instead of Spanish only. I thought about proposing that the aspects of reading instruction that would transfer to English instruction later on such as comprehension strategies, vocabulary, learning about the parts of books and different kinds of texts, how to choose appropriate books, retelling etc could be taught in Spanish. The children would have an easier time understanding these ideas/concepts if they were discussed in Spanish. Other aspects of reading instruction such as phonics, phonemic awareness, letter names and sounds, and fluency could be practiced in both languages. In a more side by side approach incorporating bilingual books or both English and Spanish versions of stories, the children could benefit from having access to both languages as tools to learn and increase their skills. Yes, it would be hard to fit everything in and this would require the use of a different instructional program or perhaps combination of the English and Spanish versions, but I think it could work with the right staffing.
After reflecting, I realized I don't think that opportunities to learn in Spanish should be removed, but I do think that there needs to be more of an effort to include reading instruction in English from the beginning so that students do not transition into English only reading classes in third grade with the expectation that they will be able to take state assessments in English within a few months. That is a lot to ask. Even if the Spanish program emphasized learning to read in Spanish, I think it should follow more of a bilingual model than strictly native language.It is nice to have follow bloggers as a means to process ideas and I am happy that I have revised this assignment (at least in my mind) so that I can submit something I am completely happy with.
Thanks for the comments that came in! I am always so glad to have access to people who make me think deeper and more thoroughly!