They forgot to mention my children's school below as well -we got new bilingual classes this year. I have heard many cases where a parent refused bilingual but had to jump hoops to get out of it for their child. The Michael Rodriguez, mentioned below, has absolutely no accent -nor his child. Interesting how he went through that, is now on the board, so wants to make sure other parents don't have to go through that.

Ask your local school board about this...

School board wants faster transition to English
Latino immigrants fuel program

September 13, 2007

More than one in four students in Waukegan are in the Transitional Bilingual Education program for students who speak another language at home, fueled by Latino immigrants.

A majority of Waukegan District 60 school board members have publicly called for a quicker transition of students from bilingual classrooms taught in Spanish and English to monolingual classrooms.

» Click to enlarge image Bilingual education teachers at Clark Elementary school in Waukegan Barbara DiPierro (second from left) and Eva Korellis (right) help students with their English skills. They are (from left) Joshua Lobo, a fourth-grader from the Philippines; Ryan Nevarez, a third-grader from Belize; Kristy Ochoa, a third- grader from Belize, and Keily Yacab, a third-grader from Belize.
(Michael Schmidt/News-Sun)

It's the law

By state law, if 20 students speak the same language, the school has to provide transitional education in their language.

State code requires that limited English language learners remain in a transitional bilingual education program for a minimum of three years unless a parent withdraws the student or the student achieves a certain proficiency score, said Andrea Preston, a spokeswoman for the Illinois State Board of Education.

Students can remain in a program longer than three years, but it requires parent notification and written parent permission, she said. Other languages

About 60 Waukegan students that speak other languages such as Belizean Creole, Tagalog and Arabic are in a separate program. They are placed in regular monolingual classrooms but are pulled out for an hour or more each day for English as a Second Language instruction in small groups or individually.

Waukegan's Transitional Bilingual Program includes 4,600 students this year out of about 16,000 total students in the district. The vast majority of the English language learners speak Spanish and are concentrated in the lower grades.

Board Member Michael Rodriguez said in past years, students like his eight-year-old son who spoke English at home but had a Spanish surname, were sometimes placed in the bilingual program.

"It was a big struggle for us to get him in a monolingual classroom," Rodriguez said during an August meeting. "I'm sure this is not being done for students with non-Spanish last names."
He also asked, "How many kids are in the bilingual program that don't belong there?"

Parents have the right to accept or decline language services for their child and Board Member Sonny Garza said he would like information about how to opt out to be included in the parent handbook next year.

The bilingual program is designed for children to transition from Spanish to the regular English classroom successfully.

Students that start in the bilingual program in kindergarten in Waukegan usually transition into monolingual classrooms by fourth grade, said Marilyn Krajenta, the new director of the bilingual program who was appointed last month. Some students may take longer or shorter based on testing results.

"Exit criteria is one of the areas we'll be clarifying this year so we do make the best decision for the kids," Krajenta said.

The program is not solely focused on teaching English. The students must also learn content to keep up with their peers in regular classrooms. Even though they may initially learn math or reading basics in Spanish, they can build on that knowledge in later classes in English.

"When the child learns to read in Spanish, it transfers," Krajenta said. "We build on a language base right from the start."

Waukegan's Transitional Bilingual Program has been expanded to Hyde Park Elementary and McCall Elementary this year. The district recruited 11 teachers from Spain this summer to help fill bilingual teacher positions.

Giovanna Castillo, a second-grade teacher at Clark Elementary who has taught in the bilingual program for 12 years, said students need time to transition into monolingual classrooms. If exited too fast it can affect them negatively in later grades.

"You have to give them time to get results," Castillo said. ... S1.article