The PPS Department of Dual Language at the 2/8/17 meeting of the Teaching and Learning Committee proposed cutting back from two strands to one strand at both the Spanish immersion program at Sitton and at the Russian immersion program at Kelly, as follows:
Materials before the Teaching and Learning Committee included the following chart on the out-of-district enrollment in the Russian immersion program at Kelly.
(1) Both immersion programs are basically being cut back due to lack of interest (lottery applications) by parents of English native students. In Sitton’s case, it is the lack of interest by parents in the Sitton neighborhood (Sitton is a neighborhood only immersion program). In Kelly’s case, it is a lack of interest district-wide. Kelly, located in a remote corner of the district, is not readily accessible to much of the district.
It is sad and unfortunate that parents in both neighborhood are not more supportive of the immersion program in their neighborhood. Not only are they denying their children the opportunity to learn a second language, but they are, on average, setting their children back seven month on English reading at fifth grade and back nine months at eighth grade. I wonder if those parents knew that? Were the immersion programs marketed to them?
(2) I am especially concerned about the cut back in the Russian immersion program at Kelly. When I surveyed immersion programs statewide in 2013-14, Kelly was one of only two Russian immersion program in Oregon. The other was in the Woodburn School District. Together they then had a kindergarten enrollment of 90 students, or 0.2% of kindergarteners. Russian is an important language for Portland’s, and Oregon’s, economic and national security future. We needed many more students in Russian immersion programs.
There is overcrowding at Kelly which makes it politically difficult to continue to accept out of district students. Space could be found and the program could continue with two strands. Dealing with enrollment problems in far SE Portland has been a very low, almost non-existent, priority for the PPS Board, Superintendent, and DBRAC. It should have and have had higher priority. It is a failure of strategic vision, both in education and politics in general. Russian immersion programs need to grow. If not at Kelly, then somewhere.