Portland Public Schools’ Superintendent’s Advisory Committee on Enrollment and Transfers (SACET) met Tuesday evening, 6/25/13, at PPS headquarters. The first half of the meeting was used to do an “equity” exercise and to review operating procedures for the SACET itself. The rest of the meeting was spent reviewing and discussing three draft documents: (1) “SACET Guide to Enrollment & Transfer Policy and Practice,” (2) “SACET thoughts,” and (3) SACET Summer & Early Fall Community Outreach Plan.”
The “SACET Guide to Enrollment & Transfer Policy and Practice” noted that
“The Board is committed to families and students as the primary decision-makers for their choice of educational options.” In other words, current policy is individualistic, centered on students and their families. SACET has argued that such an individual approach has led to systematic imbalances in school enrollment, with deleterious effects on school enrollment and programs.
The discussion on this text further emphasized that sometimes individual choices could hurt the educational system as a whole and that the SACET’s role was to find ways to improve the educational system as a whole. I am OK with this reasoning so far. But then there seemed to be an assumption, without any discussion, that the best educational system for Portland is a system of English-only neighborhood schools. This may be the view of the politically dominant coalition that currently governs PPS, but a system of English-only neighborhood schools is no longer the best educational system for Portland. PPS needs to expand dual-language immersion programs to the extent that there are available good teachers and parental demand. This is what the SACET needs to figure out how to support with appropriate enrollment and transfer rules. Giving support only to English-only neighborhood schools would have the intended or unintended consequences of making the expansion of immersion programs more difficult. And all the SACET's work would go towards reinforcing a second-rate, outdated educational system.
Utah summarizes the advantages of dual-language immersion as follows (here):
Students achieve high proficiency in the immersion language.
Improved Performance on
Immersion students perform as well as or better than non-immersion students on standardized tests of English and math administered in English.
Enhanced Cognitive Skills
Immersion students typically develop greater cognitive flexibility, demonstrating increased attention control, better memory, and superior problem solving skills as well as an enhanced understanding of their primary language.
Increased Cultural Sensitivity
Immersion students are more aware of and show more positive attitudes towards other cultures and an appreciation of other people.
Long Term Benefits
Immersion students are better prepared for the global community and job markets where a second language is an asset.
Immersion programs are just plainly superior to English-only programs. PPS, with SACET support, should expand them.