about CR Part 154, the idiotic state regulation that cuts direct English instruction to newcomers and substitutes it with, well, less than nothing. Instead of direct English instruction, a newcomer may have a social studies class with an ESL teacher to help, or a dually-certifed ESL/ social studies teacher. Supposedly, this teacher, or pair of teachers, will teach newcomers both English and social studies in the same time it takes an American-born student to learn social studies only.
Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa told me that this rule was made with the best of intentions, and I'm sure she's right, but that's a weak argument indeed. I think everyone does everything with the best of intentions. Michael Bloomberg closed schools with the best of intentions, and hired Cathie Black with the best of intentions. He felt that people who had a lot of money knew better than those of us who don't, and acted accordingly.
But everyone knows the road to hell is paved with good intentions, so why don't we focus on taking newcomers somewhere else? One of the things I've learned from being chapter leader is that it's best to come not only with a complaint, but also with a potential solution. So if anyone actually knows Betty Rosa, maybe you can present her with it.
The other day, a social studies teacher looking to get ESL certification observed the first period of my double period class. I was showing a Powerpoint explaining vocabulary. She wrote that she saw a preparation period for the class that follows, which was accurate. So why not, instead of taking away an ESL period, add one? I'm not a social studies expert, but I could easily read the text and prep students for whatever the lesson may be.
I could easily identify key vocabulary and fill them in before the class. I could identify key concepts and make sure they are familiar with them before they walked in there. I could actually offer students more support rather than less. Is that such a revolutionary concept? I don't think so.
Of course I'm just a lowly teacher who spends each and every day of my working lives with these kids. I'm not an expert working in some office tower in Albany making decisions about children I never see and will never know. Eveidently they keep teachers out of such decisions and keep them pure, under the direction of folks like Reformy John King, who regards parents and teachers as special interests, or MaryEllen Elia, who loves her some Gates cash and programs.
Honestly I have no idea what anyone was thinking when they rewrote Part 154 like this. I have no idea what drugs they were taking, or why they thought this would benefit anyone. They certainly couldn't be bothered investigating research or practice, none of which would support this. My personal feeling is they felt teaching students how to communicate in the English language was simply not Common Corey enough, and decided to do away with conversation in favor of answering questions about Hammurabi's Code, and other things about which teenagers don't give a crap.
But the David Coleman approach of shoving things down children's throats whether they like it or not is not only counter-intuitive for teaching reading, but also for teaching English. These are subjects in which affect plays a great role. For example, I don't love reading, say, the UFT Contract, but because I'm a reader I can plod through it and understand what I need to. If you want me to go the extra mile and learn a foreign language, there'd better be someone or something I love where they speak it. In lieu of that, there'd better be a teacher to trick me into loving it.
Because I can tell you for sure, this Hammurabi's Code stuff isn't gonna cut it. Nor is Part 154.
A Prescient Warning that Was Ignored
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