Glendale: District puts fact versus fiction

Glendale News Press
March 24 2004

District puts fact versus fiction

Local parents have criticized the district’s English Language
Development program. Coordinator Joanna Junge helps make the

By Gary Moskowitz, News-Press

NORTHEAST GLENDALE – Since the district’s English Language
Development program came under criticism last summer from parents,
Joanna Junge has been busy correcting what she calls simple
misconceptions about how the program works.

Junge is the coordinator of curriculum and intercultural education
and instructional services for the Glendale Unified School District.
She works closely with the district’s Welcome Center staff and
language translators, who determine students’ language skills when
they enter the district.

Last summer, members of an Armenian parent group criticized the
district’s English Language Development program during several school
board meetings and on local Armenian television talk shows.

Some parents thought the district discriminated against students of
Armenian and other ethnic backgrounds who were born in America but
whose families speak languages other than English at home.

Others said students are kept in English-language learner classes
longer than they should be so that the district can collect extra
state money. Some parents were concerned that taking too many
English-language learner classes would prevent their children from
getting into top-notch universities.

Other parents said they did not want their children enrolled in the
language classes because they thought they were for special
education. Some thought the language classes had a stigma attached to
them that they did not want their children to be a part of. Others
said the translation provided by the district was inadequate.

“I think there were a lot of misconceptions from some parents that we
have worked at resolving ever since,” Junge said.

The News-Press interviewed Junge recently about the Welcome Center
and parents’ criticisms of the English Language Development program.

NEWS-PRESS: Parents’ criticisms of the district’s English Language
Development program started [last] summer, and resurfaced on several
local Armenian-language television programs. What was one direct
result of that criticism?

JOANNA JUNGE: There was a lot of debate, and we decided, if it will
help communication between parents and us, why fight it? The whole
point is what’s best for the children, and we’ve taken steps to
resolve the debate.

NP: What is the district doing differently now as a result of the
parents’ speaking out?

JJ: We’ve worked to improve our Armenian translation efforts, by
translating in both Eastern and Western dialects of Armenian and
having translators of both dialects available for many meetings.
We’ve also recorded three “Half-Time Live” shows on [Charter
Communications] Channel 15 that feature panel discussions on our
English-language learners program. We plan to re-record those shows
with district officials who are fluent in our primary languages –
Armenian, Korean and Spanish.

NP: Does the district earn more money by keeping students in the
English-language learners program?

JJ: We do collect about $300 per student per year in state and
federal funds. However, our programs cost thousands more per year
than the funds we receive. There is no financial advantage to keeping
students in the program longer than they need to be.

NP: Does taking English-learner classes make it more difficult for
students to get into four-year universities?

JJ: No. The majority of our Advanced Placement students are either
current or former ESL kids. If English is not the primary language,
they need to learn English skills to do college-level work.

NP: Are English learner classes the same thing as special education?

JJ: Absolutely not. Special education is for kids with learning
disabilities. It is possible for an English learner to also have
learning disabilities, but we are careful not to assume that just
because they lack English skills, they have disabilities. There is no
automatic connection between the two.