Curriculum

Calif. Texts Will Add Lessons For English-Learners

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo — January 23, 2002 3 min read
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The main English/language arts textbooks for California’s elementary and middle schools will incorporate lessons for English-learners for the first time, reducing the need for separate materials in most classrooms.

The texts approved by the state school board this month are aligned with California’s English/language arts and language-development standards and include daily lessons for students with varying levels of English proficiency.

In previous textbook adoptions, materials for language-minority children were separate from the standard textbook, and often the lessons were not aligned with those texts. Those materials did not always offer students equal learning opportunities, said John Mockler, the executive director of the state school board.

“We wanted the needs of the English-language learner to be addressed in the core materials,” Mr. Mockler said. “This assures that the teachers of California will be trained to deal with English-learners in every classroom.”

The English language-development standards are aligned with the state’s language arts standards for grades K-3. But proponents of bilingual education, which California voters curtailed under Proposition 227 in 1998, are criticizing the new textbooks.

Students assigned to bilingual education classes are taught academics in their native languages while they are learning English. Proposition 227 replaced most of those programs with one-year English- immersion programs, though parents can apply for waivers that allow their children to learn in their first languages.

Texts Criticized

“We really believe that when you use students’ home language in [instructional materials], it brings meaning to their education,” said Maria S. Quezada, the executive director of the California Association for Bilingual Education. “These kids will have to sit through 21/2 hours of instruction that they don’t understand before they are taught something they can understand.”

Nearly one-third of the state’s 5 million schoolchildren do not speak English as their native language. More than 80 percent of those students speak Spanish.

Ms. Quezada said the textbook-adoption criteria did not devote sufficient attention to the needs of language-minority children. She is one of a group of more than 50 community leaders, parents, educators, and bilingual education advocates who signed a letter to Gov. Gray Davis this month urging the Democrat to stop the board from taking action.

Calling for an end to what it contends is the “relentless assault” on the educational rights of language- minority children, the group also objected to new regulations for reclassifying English-learners as fluent and revisions to the parental-waiver process.

The texts include a 35-minute lesson each day that teachers can use to help English- learners tackle grade-level material.

For the elementary grades, the state board approved just two basic-reading programs: A Legacy of Literacy, published by Boston-based Houghton Mifflin, and SRA Open Court, published by SRA/McGraw- Hill, a division of the McGraw-Hill Cos., based in New York City. Four basic programs were adopted for grades 6-8. The publishers are also required to offer a version of the texts for bilingual classrooms.

As one of the largest textbook-adoption states and a traditionally lucrative market for publishers, California wields significant influence over the types of materials published for school use nationwide. In textbook-adoption states, districts can use state money only to buy instructional materials that appear on an approved list.

Several publishers that have submitted their products for California’s approval in the past did not do so this time around because the materials would not have met the new requirements, Mr. Mockler said.

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A version of this article appeared in the January 23, 2002 edition of Education Week as Calif. Texts Will Add Lessons For English-Learners

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