Sunday, January 24, 2010

How to Teach Foreign Students

Normally I don’t write about HISD. I’m not a teacher, or an expert in education. I don’t have kids who go to school. But I lived in France as a seventh grader, and that incensed me to think about this Chronicle Article on Fondren Middle School.

Fondren Middle School is almost guaranteed to fail under the Texas education system. In Texas, a school’s success is measured by test scores. The tests are in English, and English is the second language for many Fondren Middle School students.

It behooves schools like Fondren Middle to do a better job teaching English as a Second Language. It should be a language immersion program. They could give foreign students a ‘free year’ when they first arrive. During their ‘free year’, foreign students take normal courses (in English), as well as intensive English as a Second Language courses. Their grade for this ‘free year’ is based on their grade in the ESL courses. Instead of a normal TAKS test, foreign students in their ‘free year’ are given an ESL test.

The next year, foreign students could repeat the normal courses from their ‘free year.’ In this year, they could be graded on all of their courses. The students could take the TAKS test with other students from this repeated year, and thereafter they could be mainstreamed.

This is, more or less, what the French school system did for me. Granted there was no TAKS test. But it worked marvelously. I went from speaking almost no French, to a comfortable level of fluency by the end of the year. If only there were room in Texas schools to do such a thing.

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