School board members express reservations about expanding dual-language program

Posted at 11:16 AM on Nov 7, 2017

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BY KARISSA MILLER

Iredell-Statesville Board of Education members on Monday revisited the possibility of offering dual-language learning to students at the high school level.

Director of English as Second Language and Dual Immersion Dian Morgan requested that the school board begin a Spanish dual language immersion program at Statesville High School beginning in the 2018-2019 school year during Monday’s committee of the whole meeting.

If the program is expanded to the high school, the first cohort of dual-immersion students would be able to continue the program as ninth graders. Students would eventually have the opportunity to earn a bi-literacy seal when they graduate, she explained.

Supporters of the program point out that dual-language students have worked hard to acquire these skills and that there are currently no high school classes on par with their skills.

Board members shared several concerns about the proposal.

“We can’t continue to fund these things unless someone can convince the county commissioners to give us more money,” board member Bill Howell said.

Howell said that he’d like to see statistics and costs to support the program’s expansion before he would consider supporting the proposal.

Board member Charles Kelly said he was not sure there would be widespread interest in the program.

“When you get to the high school level and are taking classes, in which, a tremendous future is placed, I can’t picture an English-speaking student wanting to take chemistry and physics in Spanish,” he said. “I don’t think English-speaking students are going to fill your classes.”

“My biggest concern is test scores,” said board member Samuel Kennington. “Impressions (the perception) that our community has of our schools. I don’t mean to embarrass a single one of you in here … the three schools we are talking about are D schools.”

Chairman Martin Page questioned how the dual-language program could improve test scores for Spanish-speaking students.

“They are able to learn the concept in their native language, and then because they are getting English on the other side they are able to grasp the concepts and transfer it over,” Deputy Superintendent of Instruction and Curriculum Melanie Taylor explained.

Taylor added that the data the district has currently shows that dual-language students are outperforming non-dual language learners on End-of-Grade tests.

According to an I-SS webpage promoting dual-language instruction, the program "allows students from two different language backgrounds to receive academic instruction in two languages -- English and Spanish. The goal is to develop literacy (read, write and speak) in both languages."

The school board had a full agenda Monday. As a result, the chairman asked Morgan to arrange a time for the board to meet with East Iredell Middle school dual-language parents for further discussion.

Also, during the meeting:

  • The board discussed a survey asking for feedback on the new middle school names. The two names with the most support were Third Creek and Woodland Heights. The board will vote on these names as the new middle school names at the next meeting.
  • Listened to a report on the 2017 summer reading camps, which had a total of 316 students attend. There were 72 first-graders, 81 second-graders and 163 third-graders. Each classroom had 12 students with two teachers to provide small-group instruction. “By the end of the reading camp, 46 percent of the third-graders passed the Read to Achieve test,” according to Executive director of Elementary Education Jonathan Ribbeck.
  • In light of the tragic shooting in Texas, board members brought up safety and making sure schools are more secure, especially in the elementary schools. They plan to discuss the matter further at the next meeting.

Next Meeting

The next school board meeting is Monday, Nov. 13, at 6 p.m. The meeting will take place at Iredell County Government Center, located at 200 S. Center Street, Statesville.

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