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Published in Print: February 10, 1999, as Denver Board Hopes Bilingual Ed. Plan Ends Dispute

Denver Board Hopes Bilingual Ed. Plan Ends Dispute

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The Denver school board late last week unanimously approved a new bilingual education plan that members hope will settle a long-running dispute with members of the Hispanic community and satisfy a federal judge.

The plan, which requires teachers in the district's English-language-acquisition program to be "fully qualified" and allows parents to choose whether they want their children to receive services, was approved after an hourlong presentation by the district administration. It still must be approved by U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch.

About 14,000 of the district's 69,000 students are limited-English-proficient.

School officials have said their goal is to mainstream students into regular, English-only classes within three years. Advocates of bilingual education programs have criticized the way the district has implemented parts of a 1984 consent decree and have raised concerns that children were being moved out of bilingual education too quickly.

Input, Observations

The plan includes a student-profile system that would be used when considering whether a student should be placed in bilingual education and how long he or she should remain in it.

"It will be a comprehensive document that will follow a child," said Mark Stevens, the district's public-information officer.

Decisions about leaving the bilingual program would no longer be based solely on standardized-test scores, but also would include teacher input and classroom observations. An advisory team at each school would make recommendations and monitor students for a year after they left the program.

The consent decree stems from a suit filed by the Denver Congress of Hispanic Educators, contending that the system did not provide LEP students with an adequate education. In addition, the district has been under investigation since 1997, when the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights found that teachers there who were not truly bilingual were teaching bilingual classes.

Under the new plan, teachers would be deemed qualified after a 150-hour training course and demonstrated proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing Spanish.

Vol. 18, Issue 22, Page 3

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