Thursday, December 07, 2006

Despite challenges, teachers and students forge ahead

A school that is using English immersion to quickly teach immigrant children, instead of bilingual, which takes a long time. DP

By Deborah Turner, The Dallas Morning News CACTUS, Texas - "Torns?" asks one student.

"No, `T-H-orns,'" responds another.

"Que? Que dijiste? (What? What did you say?)"

Peals of laughter blend with conversations in Spanish as students in Stacy Murphy's class quiz one another for their impending English vocabulary test.

On the other side of the room, Anna Vazquez, a bilingual transition assistant, works with third- through sixth-grade students who are learning the language.

These are the children of immigrants who call Cactus home - their parents drawn to the Swift & Co. meatpacking plant by the prospect of a steady wage and a chance to provide their children with a decent education.

At Cactus Elementary, 99.3 percent of students are Hispanic, and 77 percent are classified as limited English proficient, the highest rate in the state.

In sharp contrast, the teaching staff is 95.1 percent white and mostly non-Spanish-speaking, including Murphy.

So educators have turned to total English immersion - bypassing the state-mandated bilingual education - to teach the children. That's partly out of necessity, said Cactus Elementary principal Carla Tafoya, because the state does not have enough qualified bilingual educators to go around.

But also because Tafoya believes that total immersion works.
Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

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