By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Some parents are concerned that changes this year are eroding the immersive aspect of the English/Spanish program. And they plan a meeting next Tuesday at South Park Neighborhood Center (6 pm October 3rd, 8201 10th Ave. S., South Park) to explain their concerns.
Among those concerns: Reading and writing are being taught primarily in English. And Concord’s kindergarten has only one dual-language classroom this year.
At a briefing for families last week at Concord, longtime principal Dr. Norma Zavala explained the program’s status but didn’t take Q&A, saying that would be at a later meeting.
She noted overall changes including that Concord has a STEAM curriculum now – science, technology, engineering, art, math, and that while the school’s students were 93 percent qualified for free/reduced-price lunch when she started almost a decade ago, that is down to 75 percent.
Kindergarten enrollment for Concord wasn’t enough for two dual-language classrooms, the principal said, so they have one dual and one “traditional” as the result of a decision that had to be made around kindergarten “jump start” time in August.
There are concerns that the school is not as involved with nearby Marra Farm this year as it has been in the past, but the principal says it’s continuing to partner with Concord teachers.
Regarding the dual-language instruction, she said both Concord and Beacon Hill, another of the district’s five elementaries with dual-language immersion, have a “shift” happening:
Students (native/heritage Spanish and English speakers) will learn to read and write in both English and Spanish from kindergarten. Formal, balanced literacy instruction will happen in English. Literacy in Spanish will be taught through small group instruction and through the content areas (e.g. math, social studies, science). The plan, she said, “supports increasing bilingualism of incoming students” – that’s another change, that students who used to start as native Spanish speakers “are now coming in bilingual.”
The principal said the benefits of concurrent literacy development are expected to include:
*Native Spanish and English speakers learn with and from each other all day
*Literacy skills are taught through content in both languages
*Increased time in Spanish for English native speakers
*Less segregation by language group
She also said the changes are expected to increase support for and collaboration between teachers, better leverage district resources, and increase centralized support for the dual-language program.
Among specific subjects, math for the dual-language students is being taught in Spanish for K through 2nd, both languages for 3rd, and in English for 4th and 5th, though Dr. Zavala said that’s not a change. Writing is being taught in English for all grades, though English Language Learners will continue to get support from bilingual staff, and it will also “be taught through social studies and science in Spanish in dual-language classrooms.”
Reading has a new district-adopted curriculum – for the first time in many years, pointed out School Board director Leslie Harris, who was also in attendance.
Science, with new standards, is being taught in Spanish for the dual-language K-5 classrooms.
Music for all students is being taught in Spanish.
Overall, many areas in K-3rd are “50/50 Spanish-English,” while in 4th and 5th, there’s more English. Dr. Zavala said that in visiting classrooms previously, 4th and 5th graders “were not engaged … were not talking in Spanish.” But they will still be eligible for middle-school Spanish studies and “the Seal of Biliteracy” in high school.
PTA co-president Robin Schwartz says parents are concerned about what they’re hearing from their kids, and have myriad concerns and want answers from the district. That’s what they are hoping will happen at next Tuesday’s meeting, to which they invite not only their fellow Concord parents but anyone else interested in the dual-language program. The elementary level has been the most immersive in our area; it feeds to Denny International Middle School and Chief Sealth International High School in West Seattle, whose program points are explained here.