I found an editorial on this page last week to be very interesting.
It was about 130 teachers in the Glendale schools who “lack the proper credentials for dealing with English learners and bilingual students” in our local schools. I am one of those 130 teachers. I’m here to tell you that there’s more to the story.
Starting with a misperception that “We’ve [Glendale Unified School District] escaped class-size increases,” I would beg to differ. For the 30 years that I have taught in Glendale schools, the average class size throughout the district has increased steadily. What was once a maximum 25 in a high school class has now become 40. Our district has much to brag about, but class size has no part of that self-congratulation.
The larger issue/greater sin pointed to in the editorial concerned we 130 who, once again, “lack the proper credential” in dealing with the limited/non-English speakers. It goes on to say that it has been a “nagging problem . . . for at least a decade.”
Well, it’s actually been an issue for more than three decades. That’s how long my district has been suggesting to me that I get my CLAD, not exactly conveying a sense of urgency there. Now, however, there suddenly is.
What then, you might ask, is a CLAD?
The letters stand for Crosscultural Language and Academic Development. It is based partly on a federal mandate that dates back to 1974 guaranteeing an equal education for non- or limited-English-speaking students.
That’s the year I entered the profession, and for about half of the next 35 years I taught English as a Second Language in English classes, in history classes, and to adults through Glendale Community College.
In all of those years I have seen a good number of educational theories and mandated programs, in some cases amounting to nothing more than fads and passing fancies that came and went in my profession. Those of us who were instructed in, or should I say subjected to, these mandates, came to regard them like we do seasonal illnesses. We braced for them, we lived with them, and hoped that they would pass quickly.
CLAD, for many of us, has been just another professional migraine sent our way from the great dispenser of headaches, Sacramento. Perhaps we should have realized after 34 years that this program was here to stay, but I think we 130 can be forgiven for believing that it too would pass.
The program offers good suggestions, but when they come in the form of mandates, they engender resentment from some of us who have spent the greater part of our lives teaching. By all means, give us more arrows for our quivers, but let each of us who call ourselves teachers choose which arrows we will use. Like the students we serve, we are individuals, who naturally resist efforts to lump us all together.
Right now I am classified as an unqualified teacher, whereas my colleagues with their CLAD are called “highly qualified.” If I do not get my CLAD, I will be fired. If, on the other hand, I do go through 60 hours of training and then pass a nine-hour test, I’m good to go. I can keep teaching.
I can keep teaching because those three or four kids designated as limited-English-speaking of the 180 I teach are now in the presence of a “highly qualified teacher.”
I’ll be qualified to answer questions like:
In order to develop pragmatic competence as a writer, a student must pay most attention to which of the following?
A. lexical specificity
B. audience and purpose
C. syntactic complexity
D. structure and organization
My general reaction to that goes something like this: *&*@)*^#(*
Our state has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on implementing CLAD, most of it going to monthly stipends for teachers who passed the test. I have made a point of contacting colleagues throughout the district to ask each and every one of them the following question:
“Has the CLAD made you a better teacher?”
Not one, not a single teacher, has answered in the affirmative. Some said that it was just a repeat of information they received in their methodology courses in college, some said it was interesting but should not be mandated, and some thought it was just one more exercise in — two letters here, one at the beginning of the alphabet, the other toward the end.
Some of us nearing retirement suspect that the state is looking to entice a whole bunch of old teachers like myself into an earlier retirement and replace ing us with recent college graduates at half our salary. What better way to accomplish that than by throwing up a roadblock this late in our careers which is sure to have a good number of us saying, “_____ it”, I’ll retire early.
Right now I’m of a mind to contact every colleague in the district who is close to retirement and tell them to hang on. I want to urge them to reconsider early retirement and go ahead and jump through this last hoop before they leave the classroom. But that’s grist for another mill, a future column.
I’d like to end this on a decidedly more pleasant note to announce the birth of Siena Rose, my second grandchild. She made a grand entrance last Sunday and is the newest star in the Kimber household.
She’ll soon be joined by Kaison Peter, my third grandchild, due in a few more weeks.
That puts all of the above on a back burner for me. There is new life in my family and nothing, certainly not all of this CLAD-trap, will diminish the joy I feel in that.
It does make me look forward to being a full-time grandpa in retirement.
But not just yet.
Get in touch DAN KIMBER is a teacher in the Glendale Unified School District, where he has taught for more than 30 years. He may be reached at DKimb8@ sbcglobal.net.