Orange Co. schools to eliminate bilingual education for 3rd graders

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Orange County Public Schools will end its bilingual education program for third-grade students next year.

The school district would not talk with Channel 9 about the change, but officials did provide a letter that they said is now going out to parents.

The letter says that the change is because the new Common Core State Standards expect English language students to know English as well as their peers.

Right now, non-native English speakers attend feeder bilingual center schools, such as Lake Weston, where they are taught in both English and their native language.

Many experts have said that it is the best way for English language students to learn.

"If you know how to read in one language. you have a big leg up on learning how to read in a new language," said Dr. Joyce Nutta, who teaches English for speakers of another language.

When the district cuts its bilingual program for third-graders, non-native speakers will then go to their home elementary school.

There they will receive instruction only in English, but by teachers trained to teach English language learners.

"This could have an impact on their reading proficiency and their ability to reach new higher standards that the Common Core State Standards will demand," said Nutta.

Teachers certified to instruct non-native English speakers teach them in English, but to help non-native speakers understand the material, the teachers are trained to use a lot of visual aids.

"My greatest fear of third graders not receiving that is that they are going to continue to fall behind," said Marucci Beard, of Latino Leadership.

Beard is concerned the new system will mean more third graders are held back.

"It's frustrating. It's frustrating. If we start that cycle now, of holding kids back, when does it stop?" said Beard.

It will be up to school principals to decide if non-native English speakers will be grouped together in one class or spread out among native English speakers.