Parent preferences and school district priorities are getting lost in translation when it comes to the Chinese dual language program in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.
A report released by the district this week that recommended phasing out the program has upset parents and teachers.
Since 2002, the Chinese program has been offered at Glenwood Elementary School, which then feeds into McDougle Middle School.
“It’s just really sad that they would take this investment of 10 years and just ditch it,” said Leigh Copeland, who has a fourth-grade son enrolled in the program.
Parents and teachers met at Carrboro High School Monday night and gathered again on Thursday after school at Glenwood Elementary School to share concerns and ideas.
“They’ve gotten one recommendation, and there’s definitely a lot of work on our side to show the phenomenal benefit to kids,” Copeland said.
Dual language programs combine native foreign language speakers and English speakers in the same classroom. Students are taught in English for half of the day and a foreign language for the other half.
The school district also offers a Spanish dual language program at three elementary schools, and the report recommended that the district expand the program.
The team of school and district administrators who made the recommendations cited issues of sustainability as the reason for ending the Chinese program.
McDougle Middle School principal Debra Scott, who was part of the team, said she would hate to lose the Chinese program, but she has noticed a problem with student retention.
“There’s just an attrition problem, especially at the middle and high school levels,” she said.
For the 2011-2012 school year, 128 students were enrolled in Glenwood Elementary School’s Chinese dual language program, but only 31 students were enrolled in the middle and high school program combined, according to the district’s report.
She said McDougle has also had difficulty finding and retaining a certified Chinese teacher.
But teachers at Glenwood Elementary School said the school district is doing a poor job of recruiting Chinese teachers.
Judy Ouyang, who has taught dual language fourth- and fifth-grade classes at Glenwood for six years, said she found her teaching position by chance.
“I moved down here for personal reasons, and then I accidentally found the program on the website,” she said.
Ouyang and other Chinese teachers sent a letter to the school board to oppose the proposal.
And Hongying Loi, who said she enrolled her children because she wanted them to speak Chinese outside their home, would be sad to see her children lose the program’s other benefits.
“My kids are getting more confident because they see other English kids who study our culture and speak our language.”
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