There is an active Facebook page with posts and comments on the enrollment balancing process in the Jefferson cluster. Below are my comments relating to a post promoting more restrictive transfer policies in Portland Public Schools:
Comment 1: (1) For all the rhetoric about transfer policies, I do not think there are possible, realistic changes that will make significant changes in enrollments. Putting hope in reduced transfers as the cluster’s salvation is misplaced. (2) The movement of students because of race is complex. There is some white flight and there is, from the documents at today’s meeting, some significant transfer (looks from the graph to be 9-10%) of Black students from outside the Jefferson cluster to inside. Reducing transfers generally would have an unintended consequence of limiting those transfers of Black students back into the cluster. (3) Just promoting English-only neighborhood schools and reduced students transfers has the intended or unintended consequence of limiting the development of foreign language immersion programs (which has the unintended consequences of limiting Portland’s future economic development and contributions to world peace). (4) I do wonder to what degree subtle racism by English-only neighborhood school activists is a factor in the lack of interest in Mandarin and Japanese immersion programs for the Black students in the Jefferson cluster. It is not OK to leave them behind in the transition to a more bilingual education system, and geographic access is important.
Comment 2: The world our children will live in will be very different. Big global changes are happening. You can chose to have your children remain English-only and fall behind, but to restrict others from becoming bilingual in important foreign languages at a young age is wrong, and, if part of your thinking is that Mandarin and Japanese are not appropriate for Black students, then we need to have a broader discussion about racial equity in the 21st century.
Comment 3: Why give the under-served and historically neglected (yes) a 20th century education when you can offer them a 21st century education. Increasingly, learning a second language is a basic need. Open up opportunity, don't close them out. ... From my perspective, a neighborhood school can be a dual language immersion school. I'm for giving neighborhood students top priority and guaranteed admission to any immersion program.... We need to give our next generations (at all levels, not just the elite) the skills to survive, compete and shape their own futures. But they will live in a world where China and India will both probably have economies twice (or more) the size of the US economy.
Comment 4: The way to make
immersion programs open to everyone is to expand them (with neighborhood
admission guaranteed, and perhaps, beyond that, priority for other nearby
neighborhoods) in different languages at accessible locations. That would
reduce commuting. We agree there should be no persistent parental engagement
requirement (I am not aware of any now, but other can speak if there are).
Currently 10% of PPS kindergarteners start at in immersion program. Last year 20% of the parents of kindergarteners applied to get their child into an immersion program. Those extra 10% were turned away. Most of those turned away were English speaking students. Given sibling priorities at most, if not all, of the immersion programs, a non-sibling, English speaking student had, I would guess, about a 33% chance (or less) of getting admitted. I note this because I think the parents of more English speaking students would apply if the odds were better, pushing that 20% wanting immersion programs up to maybe 25-30%. Plus there are reservoirs of Spanish-speaking latino students around the district, many in ESL, that would additionally benefit from Spanish dual language immersion programs. This would be maybe another 10% of kindergarteners, so near term demand for immersion programs could approach 40% of incoming kindergarten classes.
But yes, the expansion of immersion programs will disrupt and reduce the stability of English-only neighborhood schools, so we need to find the least disruptive way to make this transition happen. Placing immersion programs in English-only schools with low enrollments to make the schools more viable is one transition strategy. Giving guaranteed admission to neighborhood students is another.
I think I take your point: we either convert each and every English-only neighborhood school to a dual language immersion school (some issues of which languages where) or we do not have immersion programs at all. I get the purity and logical consistency of that position: all schools should be equal.
To me that is an impossibly high standard which leads to conformity, blandness and a dumbing down of schools, and it breaks down at the teacher level. Not all teachers are equally effective with each and every student even if the curriculum/program is exactly the same.
Pragmatically, we cannot wave a magic wand and turn every English-only school into an immersion program. There are limits to the numbers of good immersion teachers we could hire in the near future (don’t get me started on the credentialing and higher ed training system for immersion teachers). Similarly, PPS has an existing faculty of monolingual English teachers who we would not want to push out on the streets. So immersion program expansions need to be phased in thoughtfully.
Perhaps some parents are not as “forward-thinking” as we all might like. Do not we as a community have a responsibility to try to bring them up to speed and to offer their children the best programs we can afford.
Learning a second language is a basic skill best learned at an early age.