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Bilingual Class Action Settled; District To Hire More Teachers

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A court-approved settlement has been reached by the Oakland (Calif.) Unified School District and nine families that had sued the district for failing to provide adequate bilingual education for its students.

The San Francisco Public Advocate's Office brought the class action, Zambrino v. Oakland Unified School District, in April in state court on behalf of all language-minority students in the district. The district and the parents reached the settlement last month, and it was approved by Judge Winton McKibben last week.

"We are very pleased with the settlement," said Lois Salisbury, the public advocate representing the plaintiffs. "This could put Oakland on the map as the model bilingual district in the country."

Suit's Charges

The suit, filed in California Superior Court, charged that the district did not properly identify and assess students who might be eligible for bilingual classes; failed to provide an adequate number of bilingual teachers; and did not offer the appropriate curriculum material, according to Ms. Salisbury.

About 20 percent, or 9,200, of the district's students are language-minority members, according to a district spokesman.

Settlement's Provisions

In the settlement, the district agreed to hire additional bilingual teachers, depending on the number of bilingual students enrolled in the district as of September 1985. Ms. Salisbury estimated that the district needs 200 more such certified teachers, in addition to the 100 now teaching in the district.

The district also agreed to work toward making sure every bilingual teacher is certified within the next three years, said Edna E. Washington, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction for the district.

The district also agreed to form self-contained classes at the elementary level for every 20 students who speak the same foreign language, and "sheltered English" classes at the secondary level for every 25 students who speak the same foreign language, according to Ms. Washington, who was appointed by the superintendent to oversee the settlement's implementation.

'Sheltered English' Classes

The "sheltered English" classes, in which students are taught in English with support in their primary language, are to be provided in three core subject areas--social studies, mathematics, and science, Ms. Washington said.

Ms. Salisbury said, however, the settlement states a "strong preference" for bilingual classes for every 30 students who speak the same foreign language, rather than the "sheltered English" method. She said bilingual classes would be taught in the students' native language, with English used whenever possible.

Expert Auditor

The district also agreed to retain the services of an expert auditor, who will be charged with "reshaping and fashioning bilingual education in Oakland" over a three-year period, according to Ms. Salisbury.

The auditor, Margarita Calderon, is the associate director of bilingual education at the graduate school of education at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Ms. Calderon was expected to present her preliminary recommendations last Friday. Ms. Salisbury said that if the district disputes the recommendations, a court-appointed monitor will mediate.

Ms. Washington said that many of the provisions of the settlement "work to the disadvantage of the school system," but that with the help of Ms. Calderon, the settlment may be reworked.

"Generally, she will help us fashion a healthy attitude about bilingual education," Ms. Washington added.

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