Bilingual programs in Kings Beach applauded | SierraSun.com
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Bilingual programs in Kings Beach applauded

ABHUTCHISON, Sierra Sun

Kings Beach Elementary School has been recognized as one of 63 bilingual education schools in the state to drastically improve academic achievement test scores.

With approximately 60 percent of their students learning English as a second language, King Beach Elementary consistently ranks lower than other elementary schools in the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District on the state’s Academic Performance Index (API). But what they haven’t been noted for recently is the incredible gains they are making in their scores, which are going far beyond their projected targets.

The API is based solely on the results of the nationally standardized and normed multiple choice test of basic academic skills, the Stanford Achievement Test (STAT 9).

School-wide, Kings Beach Elementary exceeded its target score in 2000 by 5.6 times (growth from a score of 512 in 1999 to 591 in 2000). Socioeconomically disadvantaged students there (71 percent of the students, most who are English-learners) did even better, exceeding their target by 8.3 times.

“The school and the teachers just worked really hard,” said Ruta Krusa, coordinator of state and federal programs for the school district. “I can say nothing but kudos to all those teachers. They work so hard over there. I hope they look at the progress they have made.”

The elementary school was nominated to be included in a study by Norm Gold Associates, among 62 other schools that offer a thoroughly implemented bilingual program and have a high percentage of students who are English learners. These schools were compared with more than 1,000 similar schools that provided instruction to most of their students only in English.

According to Gold’s report, both bilingual and comparison schools have Hispanic enrollments that average 73 percent and the students in the schools come overwhelmingly from low-income families where the parents have limited formal education. Both groups of the the schools studied made progress on California’s API, but the bilingual schools exceeded their growth targets for Hispanic students by almost five times on average, while the comparison schools exceeded their targets by only four times.

“To me, this study shows that instruction in the primary language helps,” Krusa said. “Any major study that has been done between bilingual programs and English-only programs show better academic performance if they started out being taught in their native language.”

Krusa added that bilingual education is a controversial topic.

“It’s a political and an emotional issue,” she said.

Many educational researchers criticize the STAT 9 as inappropriate for the testing of English learners, since in California it is given solely in English with no accommodations. Furthermore, researchers argue that the group that provided its norm was markedly different from the enrollment in California’s schools. The norming population consisted of only 1.8 percent English learners. California’s enrollment of English learners is more than 25 percent.

Districtwide, approximately 13 percent of students are English learners, with more than 60 percent English learners at Kings Beach Elementary.

TTUSD Board President Karen Van Epps said Kings Beach Elementary is truly a model for other schools. She said among challenges for English learners is taking a content test in a language they aren’t yet proficient.


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