Friday, September 29, 2006

Arizona schools - Goldwater Country - RIP bilingual education?

In 102 degree weather...deep in the heart of Goldwater country - Phoenix, Arizona - I am visiting schools, dialoguing with hundreds of other school board members, Superintendents and policy wonks at the Council of Urban Boards of Education's 38th Annual Conference.

Despite the passage of Arizona's anti-bilingual education Proposition 203 in 2000 and the rigidity of NCLB some schools keep trying to strengthen bilingual education and arts and music programs here in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area. Only 7 dual language immersion programs remain according to local advocates.

For more history on what school desegregation activist/scholar Angelo Ancheta calls the "intersection of nativism and racism" in education policy - see former Education Week reporter and NABE director James Crawford's language policy website.

To beat the blistering heat early this morning about 20 of us visited the 50 year old Valley View Elementary School [K-8] in Phoenix's Southern Mountain area. This heroic school has managed to continue its dual language immersion programs despite Prop 203 by offering Spanish as a foreign language to all its K-3 students and then offering to its 4th to 8th graders an excellent "delayed entry" dual language immersion program. The school is 85% Latino, 13% African American, and 50% English learners.
I was also impressed with the principal and teachers' focus on using achievement data as a diagnostic tool to support student learning with a tool called Data in a Day and a child-centered approach to school reform. The school's integration of music and arts into the curriculum and various partnerships with businesses and community partners were outstanding as well.

Lastly, I snapped the self-portait photo above in a bar near my hotel - the GOP and Goldwater icons at first made my skin crawl - but it made me realize how deep I am in the birthplace of one of our country's historical bastions of conservatism, but also the base of our current day gun-toting vigilante 'minutemen' and Sen. John Kyl who are carrying on the bigotted Goldwater tradition. "In my heart"... I know they are wrong - and from my discussions with the students, parents and teachers at Valley View, I know we have to keep up the fight for human rights for immigrants, for adequate funding for our schools, and for educational justice for everyone.

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