SHIPROCK — A deal struck between the Central School District and the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights in Denver would help more Navajo children become proficient in English but ignores teaching more Navajo children their native language.
|CCSD admits noncompliance
By Jim Snyder/The Daily Times
Mar 14, 2004, 12:26 am
The district wrote a resolution agreement in response to a bilingual education charge filed against them with the Office of Civil Rights office after reaching the compromise.
“The district voluntarily acknowledged that it is in noncompliance,” Superintendent Linda Besett wrote in a Feb. 4 letter to the Office of Civil Rights. The district then agreed to implement a stronger English Language Learners program by assessing pupils within 20 days and providing more English Language Learner teachers.
In exchange, the Office of Civil Rights agreed to drop the bilingual education complaint against the district.
The district, however, did not say they would improve their Navajo language program. The deal only addresses half of the bilingual education equation, said Tina Deschenie, who filed the complaint. She is the former bilingual education director for the district.
“The English as a Second Language part of the bilingual programs will be significantly improved ... but Navajo language instruction continues to be weak,” Deschenie said.
Allegations the district admitted to included failing to provide educational services to ensure limited English proficient students have equal access to the district’s educational programs; failing to assess in a timely manner pupils having a primary or home language other than English; failing to provide alternative language program services to its English Language Learner students and failing to provide a sufficient number of qualified staff to adequately implement an alternative language program, Besett wrote in her letter to the Office for Civil Rights.
Approximately 90 percent of the district’s 7,000 students are Navajo. More than half are limited English proficient, according to the district.
“For our students to achieve academically and to become competitive in an increasingly complex world is for them to become fluent English speakers,” Besett said in a news release.
District’s plan of action
The district agreed to implement a plan of action by April 1 on the following:
• All new students having a primary or home language other than English will be assessed for English language proficiency in oral, reading and writing within 20 days of their enrollment;
• The district will ensure the appropriate placement of all English Language Learner students into alternative language program services provided by qualified staff, Besett wrote. All English Language Learner students are to receive English as a second language and English language development and;
• The district will ensure it has qualified alternative language program teachers using current staff and hiring new staff, she added.
The district also agreed to provide documentation to the Office of Civil Rights at the beginning of the 2004-05 school year showing these things have been done.
“We will be eager to show our compliance,” Besett said.
Audit report reveals problems
A January audit report of the New Mexico Bilingual Multicultural Education Program by the Public Education Department revealed numerous problems in nine school districts’ accreditation reports for 74 schools.
The audit found 45 percent did not deliver their bilingual programs, 11 percent were not serving the approved number of students, 55 percent had no scope and sequence for delivery of bilingual or English as a second language instruction and 43 percent did not have qualified bilingual or English as a Second Language teachers.
“There are not enough Navajo language, bilingual and Teaching English as a Second Language endorsed teachers within the (Central School) district to serve all qualified recipients of Navajo language instruction,” Shiprock Chapter President Duane “Chili” Yazzie said in a July 23 letter to New Mexico Lt. Gov. Diane Denish.
The audit further reported 51 percent were not using assessments to drive the bilingual program, 27 percent did not have a system in place to track student progress, 41 percent were not delivering ESL instruction and 47 percent had no instruction in the home language.
The report adds school districts are not required to spend bilingual education funds categorically unless the department finds they are not providing program services. It also says, “Program funding has been awarded without adherence to state law, requirements established by the State Board of Education regulation and the Bilingual Multicultural Education guidelines for compliance with existing federal and state law.”
The Central School District, along with five other districts, uses 50 percent of the state’s bilingual education money.
The state Legislature passed a memorial last month directing the Public Education Department to conduct a specific audit of all the bilingual education programs in districts statewide.
The memorial’s sponsor, state Rep. Ray Begaye, D-Shiprock, said he believed districts had misspent their bilingual education money.
Jim Snyder: firstname.lastname@example.org