Saving What?

The ACIE Newsletter, Februrary 1998, Vol. 1, No. 1

By Lyle Gerard


Few immersion programs have ever been terminated once they are started. However, growing pains caused by administration's refusal to hire a curriculum specialist/program coordinator (CS/PC) for the developing program in a second language are far too common. Lack of a CS/PC causes more and more and larger and larger problems as the programs grow--and grow they do! A beginning immersion program can operate with a half-time CS/PC, but the next year the program needs a full-time professional.

Costs are always problematic in public education, but savings attained by lack of a CS/PC are eventually extremely expensive. This expense is both in dollars and in frustration created in the minds and experiences of students, parents, and teachers. Newly established immersion programs and even older programs must struggle to convince the boards and administrators of the folly of short-term savings.

Typically, the new program expands rapidly and the first year's eager parents and students may more than double in the second year. This rapid growth is normal for immersion programs. Teachers (without a CS/PC) must answer twice as many questions, meet increasing media demands, and try to develop and implement scope and sequence (S&S) for the best program. Each year renews old questions from new parents and new questions from more experienced parents. Meanwhile, new materials, more visitors, and new demands must be handled. If the teachers alone must deal with these growing needs, classroom time, teacher planning, and teacher energy is lost to the prime goal--teaching in the classroom.

Without a CS/PS, the immersion program's problems grow and increase in size. Ten related problems are listed below:

Size. Within 5 years, the Robbinsdale and Einda immersion schools were the largest schools in their districts. A CS/PC must be acting in this growth.

Scope and sequence. Problems of growth continue each year. Future problems loom as 5th and 6th graders enter the next level. Without S&S planning, immersion students face world language classes with ?traditional? curriculum materials and teachers. Add to this new students of the second language, and the resulting mismatch causes very disappointed students and teachers.

Students with special needs. Both students with learning problems and talents may be neglected without the help of CS/PCs.

Individual student assessment. Assessment in second languages is not always easy or standardized. It should be continuing and consistent, and this is not achieved without the services of a CS/PC.

School-wide assessment and graphing. Doing this in both languages and the other subjects requires more time than a classroom teacher has. Again, the CS/PC is needed.

Parents. Parents involved in the education of their own children are one of the strongest forces in our schools. Parents and parent-teacher organizations present problems and innumerable opportunities for growth and change. Can classroom teachers take enough time and energy to accept and to develop the activities that parents do provide? Only a CS/PC can handle volunteers, fund raising, recognition, and community action teams, to name a few.

Publicity. Increasingly, neighboring districts and states request infomation and visits to immersion schools. News media also must be welcomed and assisted. Another job for the CS/PC.

Staff maintenance. CS/PC tasks are interviewing new staff, possibly dealing with visas, green cards, working papers, and state department licensure. The more usual tasks of supervision of tenured and non-tenured teachers again needs the time and training of the CS/PC.

Program maintenance. Often a lottery or another selection process must be put in place, as well as the sibling preference alternative. Information dissemination and publicity require planning.

Testing for late entrance. Students with language skills who would like to test in at a later grade than kindergarten must be assessed by a CS/PC.
As these problems grow and the years go by without the guidance of the CS/PC, they must not and cannot be handled by busy classroom teachers. A CS/PC with time, power, and staff will not only save money, but will ensure that the program grows and succeeds.



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