Letters to the Editor

Spanish-language classes for all — it’s elementary

The National Association of Cuban American Educators, NACAE, and many other professionals and community activists are concerned about the replacement of Spanish S and Spanish SL programs with the expansion of the Extended Foreign Language (EFL) program.

This decision isn’t meeting the needs of our students. The globalized and interdependent world of the 21st century requires that generations of citizens be able to fully master and function in many languages and many cultures.

Historically, Miami-Dade County Public Schools developed a myriad of World Languages Programs that met the needs of its diverse student population. For decades it has been nationally and internationally recognized for the diversity and quality of its language programs. The elimination of the standard Spanish programs at the elementary level is profoundly detrimental to its mission, as expressed in its motto: “Giving our students the world.”

Replacing programs to which all students had access with a program with limited enrollment results in a lack of equity for all. The EFL is designed to be taught by classroom teachers and, therefore, the number of linguistically qualified teachers in a school determines the existence and scope of the program.

Not all M-DCPS schools have enough Spanish-speaking personnel to implement the program, resulting in schools that cannot offer the EFL at all or only in a limited way.

In addition, students can only enroll in the EFL in grades K and 1 depending on space availability. The EFL offers no access to students in grades 2-5 unless space opens up through class-size attrition. In this case, the students must be Spanish speakers, leaving non-native speakers without even this option.

Classroom teachers throughout the district are being assigned additional time in world languages whether they are linguistically qualified or not. Specialized Spanish S and SL teachers, whose positions have been eliminated, have been assigned to instruct other subject areas.

The EFL Program, established in the late ’90s, was a choice for parents and schools. It now stands as the standard option for world-language education at the elementary level, a task it cannot fulfill.

The NACAE Executive Board has received many expressions of concern and it is committed to exploring solutions. We respectfully ask the Miami-Dade School Board to seriously consider our concerns and find solutions to maintain Spanish S and Spanish SL Programs, as well as the EFL Program when appropriate, in order to foster bilingualism for all elementary-school students in the district.

Ellen Lismore Leeder, president,

National Association of Cuban-American Educators, Miami