Any Place But Here......

A bit of humor now and then goes a long way, but the dire situation facing our students for whom English is a second language requires some immediate action.

While Anchorage can't seem to find the time to have a community discussion about ESL/ESOL [link] questions of how best to address the needs of non-English or limited-English speakers is getting attention in the New York Times [link].

    We address such matters in a number of very different ways. We:
  • Segregate the population into a "parallel" program,
  • Provide out-of-class "resources" the model most parents with children in Special Education are familiar with,
  • Rarely place children in short term highly focused clinical settings (the Lindamood-Bell programming, given short-shrift in ASD, is very successful example of this type of programming),
  • Let things get out of hand, and while numbers of children needing help skyrockets, the resources applied remain constant or decline (sound like ASD to you?)

While I understand the tremendous value that parallel programming offers, I always have to be concerned that such efforts may result in the same type of circumstances decried in Brown vs Board of Education with regard to race and made illegal by the IDEA with respect to students with disabilities. It is intriguing, looking at ESOL populations, to recognize that more often than not we are talking about a racial divide in which the lack of specific additional instruction will result in school failure; in other words ESOL parallel programming potentially runs counter to the two great efforts to promote what has been called "mainstreaming" in Special Education circles so as to avoid warehousing students.

As a result of those concerns, I am interested in programming that will provide students with opportunities to learn in an environment that celebrates their diversity, but also affords them experience working in a mainstreamed environment. I think that in many cases a short term tightly focused clinical intervention can be very successful and I think we need to explore such solutions. I support the current parallel programming, but believe we need to make adequate resources available so that we can be successful in moving these students into non-segregated classrooms.

This communication was paid for by Marc Grober, 5610 Radcliff Dr. Anchorage, AK 99504