Orange County schools drop bilingual education for third graders

Updated:

Loading

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Orange County says bilingual education will no longer happen for third graders.

This comes after officials eliminated bilingual classes for fourth and fifth graders.

Parents said they're worried that their children, who are not native English speakers, will be left behind.

Language is the foundation of a child's education, which is why Marytza Sanz, the president of Latino Leadership, is concerned that Orange County Public Schools will no longer teach third-grade English language learners in their native language.

"How will they be able to perform well in that class?" Sanz said.

Experts believe bilingual education is important because it helps keep students up to speed in other subjects while they're trying to learn another language.

Dr. Joyce Nutta, an English for Speakers of Other Languages professor at the University of Central Florida, said she went through something similar.

"In another language I was a true beginner again, and I ended up failing the ninth grade. Had we stayed in Italy, I don't know if I would have graduated from high school," Nutta said.

As an author and professor at UCF, Nutta prepares teachers to instruct ELL students.

"We've had mounting evidence ... that has clearly shown there are great benefits to teaching children in the native language," Nutta said.

Earlier, Orange County Public Schools said they made the change to help students achieve Common Core's English standards.

The district said the need was not great enough to warrant the classes.

The district's new Director of Multilingual Services, Marisol Mendez, said she is open to change.

"I will listen to their input. I will go back to the drawing board if we need to," Mendez said.

Sanz just hopes they do.

"My biggest fear is the lack of interest that they'll have in school," Mendez said.

There are 2,000 more English-language learners at Orange County Schools this year.