Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What Good Is It To Be A Bilingual Teacher???

So, what good is it to be a "Bilingual Teacher?" How does bilingualism give you an advantage over others in the public school system who don't "own" a second language? Obviously, Long Beach Unified School District lacked the vision that when you are fluently bilingual you have "special training" (per California State Education Code shown below) that sets you apart from others.

California State Education Code 44995 (d)  (1)   A school district may deviate from terminating a certificated employee in order of seniority for either of the following reasons: The district demonstrates a specific need for personnel to teach a specific course or course of study and that the certificated employee has special training and experience necessary to teach that course of study or to provide those services, which others with more seniority do not possess.

I am proud to say I am Bilingual, with Spanish as my second language, and a Multiple Subject Credential with a Spanish Supplementary Authorization. It took me many years to learn this second language and it was very difficult to pass the State test to be granted a California State Bilingual Crosscultural, Language, and Academic Development (BCLAD) Credential in Spanish.

Due to my bilingualism, I was given a bilingual stipend from a former employer of 9 years for using my BCLAD Credential while working with English Language Learners in their Structured English Immersion (SEI) Program. I also heard they did not include BCLAD teachers in their layoffs. Too bad I wasn't still working there! I would have both seniority and a BLAD Credential in my favor!

Upon applying for jobs in Central and Northern California, I was told by one potential employer, "You have a BCLAD Credential? BCLAD Credentials are like gold here and all the teachers with a BCLAD Credential in our District were skipped. You wouldn't have been laid off if you had that Credential here." 
BCLAD Credentials Are Like Gold?
The California State Legislator's Office 2012 Review of the Teacher Layoff Process in California indicates if a teacher "has a language specialization-credential and/or certification (for example, BCLAD)", 35% of the school districts skipped those junior employees. In fact BCLAD credentials were placed at the top of their skipping criteria, second only to a Special Education credential weighing in at 51%. Interestingly, those teaching the AVID, AP, and GATE programs were only skipped with 25% of the respondents and LBUSD placed those programs at the top of their retention list!   

Despite other Districts' decisions to "skip" their Bilingual Teachers, why did LBUSD decide not to retain all their Bilingual Teachers, considering the fact that Long Beach Unified School District, the third largest District in the State of California, has a huge Spanish speaking population? Although my place on their BCLAD Rehire List afforded me a one year temporary contract in their Dual Immersion Program, in the big scheme of things, it really made little difference that I spoke, read, and wrote fluently in Spanish as I was just another "number" in their seniority-based layoff system!

Recent 09/09/2014 statistics taken from the California Department of Education Demographics Office for the 2010-11 school year, show that among LBUSD's English Learners, the Spanish language was the most spoken by 88.9% of their ELL students. Of this ELL group, 11,084 students were Elementary School students in Kindergarten through 5th Grades.

In direct contrast, LBUSD gave special preference to only 62 BCLAD Teachers who taught ELL students Spanish primary language instruction in their 5 Dual Immersion Schools, of which I was one of them. I am not advocating for or against primary language instruction. However, I do know from years of experience working with the ELL population that there is much more to bilingualism than solely teaching the Dual Immersion Program! That being said, I believe LBUSD should have skipped all their BCLAD teachers, as with many School Districts across the State of California, rather than only those teachers servicing their Dual Immersion Program!

LBUSD had 11,084 Spanish ELL students on their roster that year, meaning thousands of families needing teachers who can speak their language to support them in the educational process at home. As a bilingual teacher, I used my second language during school events such as Back To School Night and parent conferences as well as written correspondence on report cards and clarification on weekly homework assignments. You'd think this "additional specialized skill", that couldn't be provided by a non-Spanish speaker, would account for something... especially with 11,084 students in the primary grades who are still learning English? 

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