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Bilingual Report Cards Benefit Everyone : * Efforts to Include Parents in Education Process Should Be Applauded, Not Opposed

The recent flap over Orange Unified School District’s conversion to bilingual report cards is mystifying. One complaining parent said she was “insulted” by the appearance of a second language--Spanish--on cards previously written only in English. Insulted by what?

Another parent chastised the district for thinking it could “come in and change the language.” But Spanish wasn’t substituting for English.

It’s to the benefit of everyone if all parents better understand their children’s progress in school.

Orange Unified, where 28% of the student population is Latino, should be applauded for trying to improve communication with Latino parents.

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It may be that the strong reaction on the part of some parents is more a sign of the inevitable tension that stems from the transformation of Orange County from nearly all white to ethnically diverse. According to the 1990 census, Orange County now is 35.5% minority, mostly Latino (23.4%) and Asian (10.3%).

That has changed profoundly the character of the area in a way that makes some people uncomfortable.

Orange County Department of Education Supt. John F. Dean, commenting on the controversy in Orange Unified, said that some parents “close their eyes” to the rapidly increasing minority population in county schools.

They “have to understand that schools have a responsibility to every student,” he said. “The basic idea of a report card is to communicate with parents. We do that the best we can.”

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He’s right about that. And efforts to include parents in the education of youngsters should be applauded.

On the front line in the transition now under way in the county are the schools, where many students face language barriers.

For example, 60% of Santa Ana Unified School District’s K-12 students have English-language deficiencies. The district long ago converted to bilingual report cards.

In nearby Garden Grove Unified School District, report cards come in three languages: English, Spanish and Vietnamese. School officials say there have been no problems with this.

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Report cards that are translated into the language best understood by students’ parents are a welcome sign. They show that schools are making better efforts to include families in the education process.

Of course, the goal must be to help students learn English so that they can navigate in this society as adults. But depriving parents of vital information about how their children are doing in school doesn’t help anyone.


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