Access Denied: Lack of Spanish Materials in Bilingual Programs

by multilingualmania on June 30, 2009

in Bilingual Education, Resources

I remember the horrid days when bilingual teachers had to make all of their own teaching materials in Spanish. I also remember the days when many of the materials available in Spanish were translated in Spain with vocabulary that many Spanish-speaking students in the United States were unaccustomed to hearing. At one point a number of years ago Spanish materials were readily available and easy to find.

It seems that lately we have taken a few steps back regarding the accessibility of materials in Spanish. The math curriculum was recently adopted in many California school districts well over a year ago, yet the curriculum in Spanish was “not ready”. I work in one of the top-five largest districts in the state of California, and we were told by one of the largest publishing companies in the United States that the materials in Spanish were not ready because the California Department of Education did not have a person who could review the Spanish materials.

Months and months passed and the publisher continued to blame the Department of Education for the lack of Spanish materials. The English math materials arrived, albeit with DRASTIC mistakes and errors throughout the teacher’s editions, student editions and student workbooks. (One would think that such a large publisher who is making millions and billions of dollars would be able to send out quality materials to the schools, right?).

Approximately nine months after the English materials arrived and had been used by teachers in English programs, I grew tired of our students being treated as second class citizens. We had already gone through this same type of situation the year before with our Science curriculum; it took almost two years to have the Science Spanish materials delivered to our bilingual classrooms and when they finally arrived everything was not in Spanish as we had been promised. I decided that I was going to take the matter into my own hands and investigate a little further with the math materials.

I personally called the Department of Education and spoke with the coordinator who is responsible for state-adopted materials. I informed her that the publisher had mentioned that the materials in Spanish were not state-approved because the Department of Education did not have any Spanish reviewers available. The coordinator clarified that there were plenty of reviewers that they contract with who would be able to review the materials, but the publisher had not submitted their materials for final review. She informed me that four months ago she had sent the publisher a memo that certain changes needed to be made to their Spanish version of the math curriculum, yet the publisher had failed to submit the changes for review as of the date of our conversation.

We immediately called our sales representative and the vice president of the company, because we had initially adopted the materials in the first place because they told us that they had a parallel curriculum in Spanish. The vice president claimed that she knew nothing about additional reviews that needed to be made to the curriculum and submitted to the Department for approval. At the time their Language Arts curriculum was in the process of review and adoption within the district, and the company realized that they had a lot to lose if they did not immediately rectify the situation. The materials were immediately submitted for review to the California Department of Education and were quickly approved as state-adopted materials.

It’s NOT okay that for over one year students in bilingual programs did not have access to state adopted math materials. It was also NOT okay that the year before they were denied access to state-adopted Science materials in Spanish.

What is the moral of the story? Don’t listen to a word the publishers say when it comes to materials in Spanish. Don’t adopt any materials until you have confirmed that their materials are ready and have been approved by the state board of education. Hold the publishers accountable if they do not have parallel curriculums in both languages. Write letters to the presidents and vice presidents of publishing companies if they do not provide materials in Spanish. The publishing companies have a lot of power to determine the curriculum that is being implemented in our classrooms, and we have a lot of power to hold them accountable to meeting the unique needs of our students.

Even if it means that we have to twist their arms and drag them through the mud to make the materials readily available in Spanish, so be it. Our children in bilingual programs deserve it.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Joe Turner July 10, 2009 at 6:04 pm

It’s very unfortunate that this happens to our poor children in California!

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