Modesto City Schools' pilot dual language program is proving to be more effective than the district's all-English classes in raising achievement among its Spanish speakers, according to a presentation to board of education members.
The dual language program, in its third year, involves 132 children in kindergarten, first and second grades at Bret Harte and Fairview elementary schools. Students learn half a day in English, half in Spanish.
Figures presented to the board by district administrator Ruth Flores showed English learners in the second year of the dual language program outperformed their peers, 77 percent to 65 percent, in mastering writing last year.
Among all the program's first-graders, 88 percent tested as proficient in reading English, compared with 77 percent of first-graders districtwide.
"They are overall performing as well in Spanish as in English," Flores said.
Associate Superintendent Ginger Johnson said the district is wary of making too much of such early results but said the data look very good.
At those two campuses, roughly 70 percent of students enter school as Spanish speakers. Districtwide, half of Modesto's kindergartners and first- and second-graders are native Spanish speakers still learning English.
In a light agenda, the board also unanimously approved policies rewording anti-discrimination language to more broadly protect issues of sexual preference.
In other items:
Modesto High School teacher Jeff Austin said eight teachers and 16 students are participating in a genome scientific research project. Students Jerod Femino and Malina Long, both juniors, took a bow at the meeting for attending an intensive research program at Lawrence Livermore Lab over the summer. Both shared in genetic discoveries that will be published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information database.
Awareness Week at Modesto high schools will be Nov. 5-9, arranged by the Inter-High Club, said student board member Elizabeth Jenkins. Each day will focus on a topic, including abuse, equality, teen suicide and addiction.
The board approved insurance coverages that total $885,690, a 29 percent increase from last year, principally in liability coverage. Chief Business Official Julie Chapin said the district is working to lower that figure through ongoing bargaining on the broker's fee.
Support staff will get increased notice of layoffs, thanks to a recently signed law, said Aaron Castro, president of the California School Employees Association Modesto chapter. Starting Jan. 1, employees such as bus drivers and secretaries must be given 60 days' notice before a layoff, up from 45.
Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2339.