Rita Esquirel

RITA ESQUIREL

Uh one of the new terms in bilingual education that has just come about is a term that Dr. Steven Krashen is using in his new book, “The Development of the Heritage Language.” He is using the term primary language not as much and using the term the heritage language. This is a book that he wrote with Dr. Lucy Say and Dr. Jeff McClellan. I like the term heritage language development because it tells us a little bit about uh the idea that one is an immigrant, or that one is the first generation of immigrants, or even second or third generation, rather then primary language because when one learns English and that becomes the primary language that you use in school and that you use in your working, well then what happens to this language that you grew up with, so using heritage language and then saying that you’re going to learn English – English is a good way that I would like to use the term now.

I guess one of the questions that I get asked so often because of uh – my political background on a national level, and because being strictly a political being is that “How do we get a across a positive impression of bilingual education?” And again um quoting uh Steve Krashen uh he says that we need to say that the primary purpose of bilingual education is to achieve the speaking of English in this country. Bilingual education could mean any language. It could mean German and French. Uh, it could mean Italian and German as it is in Switzerland where I just visited. But in this country it’s English and another language, and in – and in uh saying that one needs to learn English, because one does have to learn English in order to be part of um the main curriculum, in order to be part of uh being able to uh have a good business here in – in the United States, when – when – we know that children must learn English. So therefore we should tout that because bilingual education really helps a child learn English better. We should keep away from saying, “Well I want bilingual education because it’s going to teach a child that he should continue to read and write in Korean, or continue to read and write in Spanish, or continue to read and write in Greek.” That is something that you know and that I know is going to happen, but we need to reinforce the fact that children are learning English in this wonderful program of ours and I think that that’s what’s gotten us into trouble politically. That’s one of the reasons that people came out and voted against uh bilingual education and for 227. I know at the university level (bell rings in background) with my students, all of whom are teachers (Interruption) In my sitting and teaching in the university and talking to teachers that new nothing about bilingual education but are coming in for their C-Clad, at the end of my course they always tell me, “Had I known this, you know, I would have thought differently about 227,” And it was that we failed to emphasize the fact that we are teaching English. We failed to bring about to the forefront the good, successful programs that we have, and I think we needed to tout the successes of programs such as two-way immersion, which I favor over all of the programs that we have in – in second language acquisition. I’m also trying very hard not to use the word ‘bilingual’. Uh it’s a red herring, the way bussing is. So therefore I try to use second language acquisition. Um hopefully there will be a third language, a fourth language, which is very common in other countries. So I also am trying to use the term um English language learners rather then limited English proficient because to me, not to everyone, that has sort of a negative connotation. Uh I think if I moved tomorrow to Greece and people said that I was limited Greek speaking, uh that would set me off on the wrong foot, rather then saying that I was a Greek learner, the way that we are saying that we are English language learners.

If you were um enrolled in my class, you would learn on the very first day that I will always refer to the ‘p’ word, and the ‘p’ word is politics. Everything in education, unfortunately, is politically motivated. Uh to begin with, the most important people in an educational setting are the school board members, and I don’t think that we have put enough emphasis on uh who elect or who we back. Are we backing candidates that feel the way we do? Uh a school board is a board that decides who the superintendent is, what curriculum will be taught – and not only in second language acquisition. Are you going to teach evolution? Are you going to give condoms in the high school? Are you going to have sex education in the 5th grade? What is it that you’re going to be in – in – what are you going to be involved? So number one, because it is a political situation, run by an elective board, it is political in its very sense. All right, number two, it is very political from a national level. You know, the president is constantly saying that we want to improve education, which we do, but very few people realize that only 10% of a school’s budget comes from the Federal government, and it comes with a lot of strings attached. So we again come to the local board and the local board is the one that decided. Here in California – I don’t know how it is in other states – we unfortunately have the referendum system where we can put any referendum on the ballot and people get to choose whether it’s right or whether it’s wrong, and so people make judgments on education who are not backed uh in – in the philosophy of education, or they are reading a ballot that is to difficult to interpret so it becomes political. The unions, which the teachers belong to are certainly very political. The NEA is the largest political uh organization in the entire nation and supports different political um candidates. So therefore schools, unfortunately, are extremely political, and I think that private schools are just a political, and I think that religious schools are just as political. So it isn’t something that is just germane to a public school system, but it is a political situation, including the textbooks that will be taught and the curriculum that will be set.

I really feel that a parent has to become very involved in the education of his or her child, and I know that that’s uh easier for a mom or a dad who does not work – because we do have stay at home dads just as we do have stay at home moms in either are all right. Um those dads and those moms have the opportunity to be instructional aides in the classroom and so they know uh the climate of the classroom every day. Uh unfortunately some of our English learners come from homes where both mom and dad are out working in menial jobs most of the time and very long hours. Um they also are in situations where uh the work takes them into the late hours of the day where the school is no longer open and it becomes very hard for them to become a part of the school system. But they should try, and I think there has to be uh a partnership forged between the school and the home. Uh are we making uh parent conferencing at a time that’s convenient to the parent or is it at a time that is convenient to the teacher? Uh are we here to give uh employment to teachers or are we here to educate children? So therefore maybe we need to have parent conferencing on Saturdays, as well as in the evenings. I know a lot of schools have them in the evenings. We might even need to have parent conferencing on Sundays when parents are able to come where they can sit down and they can talk to the teacher about his or her child. Uh I don’t think that we as – as public school administrators have gone out of the way to try and make it convenient, uh we do everything else. In Texas where I come from, we even have drive through 7-11’s where you don’t have to get out of the car. We have drive through banks. Uh we have 24-hour restaurants. Maybe we should have occasionally schools open on Sunday?

You know, uh this is my 45th year in the teaching profession and I’m very proud of it and I’m still as enthusiastic as I was 45 years ago. Um I’ve done everything. I’ve been an elementary teacher, a junior high teacher, a senior high teacher, I’ve been a counselor, I’ve been a principal, I’ve been assistant superintendent, I was in Washington with the Bush administration, and now these last years I’ve begun to be the director of – of an adult education program, something I didn’t know anything about. (Unintelligible) And I think I died and went to heaven. Uh whenever you hear that (Unintelligible) don’t want to learn English then give me a call because I have a waiting list. I have a waiting list of people who want to come into our classes and there aren’t enough classes. We run classes here in the morning, we run classes in the afternoon, we run classes at night, we run classes on Saturdays, and I’m also investigating the possibility of running classes on Sunday because if I’m preaching to schools to open schools on Sunday, then maybe I should do likewise. Um here we also offer child care so that we have the children that are below school age being taken care of while the parents go to school to learn English. But English as a second language is not my ultimate goal for these people. I want them then to go to the reading clinic, and from the reading clinic to go to the math lab, and from the math lab they get their GED, and from the GED to get their high school diploma. In this past June we had one lady, Leticia, who came here five years ago speaking no English who learned English, who got her GED, who got her high school diploma, and is not working uh in the accounting division of one of the local hotels. And – and to me uh as she got her diploma and had her high school children, who were English speakers, in the audience clapping for her, to me that was – that was a sign that we really are making a lot of progress. And, you know, what’s happening right now with immigrants happened a 100 years ago, except that 100 years ago it was the Italians, and it was the Greeks, and it was the Russians that were coming in that were experiencing a lot of discrimination because they spoke no English. And I – and I think that a lot of people do not know that up until the 1950’s the group that experienced the most prejudice for not speaking English was the Germans also accelerated because of – of the war. And so what’s happening now happened 100 years ago and Los Angeles is not going to go to hell in a basket because New York didn’t 100 years ago. And 100 years from now it will probably happen again with a different group, and unfortunately it’s the persecuted who become persecutors and that’s very dangerous.

Well, I – I think that – I’m a strong believer that not enough – that more people need to get involved with the school board elections. I don’t think enough people are getting involved with school board elections. Um I’m a strong believer that whenever there is a public forum, whenever a candidate is going to give a speech that someone should be in the audience asking questions such as, “What is uh your idea on the education of English learners? What are your views? How do you think it should go about? Is there just one way? Are there several ways?” And I think those questions have to be pointedly asked. Also I think that those people that are proponents of education for English learners should jump into the deep water and run themselves. That’s the second thing that should happen. And thirdly, people who cannot run and people who um don’t have the inclination to become a – a public official then should help out, and you can help out financially, you can help out by knocking on doors, by making telephone calls. And then lastly, definitely something that I tell my adult students here, that it is very, very important for them to become American citizens and to get the right to vote because it’s only until the masses that are affected have the numbers to vote that the political climate will change in a community. Uh you can have 10 people that are polka-dot and have 500 people that are green, and the 500 green people cannot vote. The 10 polka-dot people are the ones that are going to be in power. Therefore the power politically is in the power to vote and it’s a tremendous power.

What – if I had to give a speech – by the way, I give this as an assignment – uh one of my assignments is that the students have to get up and give a 5-mintue speech to a PTA on why they should have uh, uh a program for second language learners. Um I probably would take them to a top two-way immersion program, such as the one we have here at Edison Language Academy. Uh I think that is the only way that people are convinced. When they see uh professional English speaking parents, English only parents, such as doctors, and lawyers, and architects, and uh principals, and teachers from our school district lining up for those coveted spots at the Language Academy, then they know that something exciting is going on there. Uh and I think that once you go there – and I have taken my students there, the most non-believers, without my saying not one word become believers. And it isn’t the teachers that are talking and it isn’t the principal that is talking, it’s the children and the parents that do the talking. And uh I – I just feel that that’s what I would do. I would take them to a good program and there’s many good programs around.

Right. I – one of the things that I found out in being uh the director of (Unintelligible) on a national level, uh there is an importance of having good statistics and having good research for when one appears before Congress because the director, regardless of who the director is has to appear before the education committee of uh the House of Representatives and the Education Committee of the Senate in order to defend the program and the budget, especially now that um, uh the (Unintelligible) uh American Schools Act will go into a reauthorization. And what uh I uh find that is – is uh – uh very important in um – in these – you know, I’m going to stop right here because you’re going to edit this, right? Because I lost the thought that I was going to give. You asked me a question on (Interruption) Evaluation. Okay. One of the – oh, I learned a lot when I was in Washington. It’s – it was very exciting to look at English language learners from a national point of view, uh and I had a lot of support uh in – from the – both secretaries with whom I worked. But one of the things that I learned was it – when one has to go to testify before the Education Committee of the House of Representatives or the Education Committee of the Senate, one has to have good research data. Therefore, in coming back now as a private citizen, I thought it would be important to gather that data so I’ve formed a company and we are going around assisting Title VII project directors in gathering data and – and evaluating their proposals, which of course is one of the requirements. Uh on a yearly basis there’s a performance report that’s due yearly. There’s a biannual report that’s due the second year and the fourth year, and there is a final report that’s – that’s viewed the last year. And we have uh a group of associates, mostly professors at universities that – that are part of – of uh our – my association. One of the things that we are finding consistently that is so mind going, that when you compare with uh, uh national norm test, uh eng – an English only speaker in FEP, which is uh, uh a student who has learned English and a second language from the inter school, and a limited English proficient person, and a reclassified – what we call LIP, that across the board the students that are having the highest success academically are the reclassified LIPs. I absolutely was astonished. I think I knew in my heart, but I’m looking numbers now. I’m looking at STBS results. I’m looking at the new SAT 9 and constantly a reclassified lip is scoring higher then a FEP or then an EO. And that in itself, if we get enough of that research together, will be important. Um I feel that – that evaluations also help a director of a project get back on course. I like to tell them – you know, they always think “Oh, the evaluator is coming in and we’re getting scared.” And I say, “No,” I say, “We’re here to help, we’re not here to scare people.” And it’s just like – if you want to shoot a rocket to the moon, occasionally you’re going to have to make an adjustment because if not, you may end up on Jupiter instead of the moon, so therefore you have to adjust and see “Am I on the right course?” And that’s what a good evaluator does. Sits down – the evaluation, really by the end of the 5 years, is being done by the school itself, and I always feel that I have done a good job as an evaluator or my staff has done a good job as an evaluator if by the 5th year the project director is in complete charge of the evaluation because then we leave and that evaluation system continues in the school with whatever program they continue to implement. (Interruption) They can’t have an outsider do it for them all for them all of the time. You know, a teacher, and a director, and a principal. Uh I like to sit down with them and I like disaggregate the data. In one of the projects that we have we are going to compare um not only the children but we’re going to compare…
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