Readers' Letters
by: Christopher Onstott, Ansley Truong reads aloud during a small ESL class at Whitman Elementary School. A recent audit blasted Portland Public Schools' delivery of ESL services, though Whitman is one bright spot that outperforms other elementary schools.

Wow! Whitman Elementary School has discovered how to destroy children's love of reading in one fell swoop (Busting a language barrier, Nov. 11).

Just put kids of all abilities in the same-level texts for an hour every day. Then give them an hour more of drill-and-kill in small groups.

Higher test scores are irrelevant when all you've really done is to make kids book haters for life.

Joanne Yatvin

Southwest Portland

ESL program changes lives

Good job, Whitman Elementary (Busting a language barrier, Nov. 11).

Thanks for your commitment to English language learners and for making a difference in our kids' education!

Ewa Campbell

Lake Oswego

Statistics don't tell the story

'Busting a language barrier' (Nov. 11) claims that a skill-based intensive reading program at Whitman Elementary has succeeded because 57 percent of the ESL students are classified as proficient in English.

If a child is 'proficient' in English, that child is not ESL. ESL, by definition, means not (yet) proficient in English. Saying that 57 percent of ESL students are proficient in English means that 57 percent are misclassified.

Claiming success on this statistic is like saying a hospital is doing well because 57 percent of the patients there are now healthy; if they are healthy they should have been discharged.

A properly done study would include pre- and post-testing of two groups of students with similar backgrounds, each taught using a different method of teaching reading. Studies done this way consistently show that the kind of reading program that works best is not the skills-oriented 'intensive' type of instruction done at Whitman, but programs that include a substantial amount of student self-selection of what they read.

Stephen Krashen

Los Angeles

ESL deserves greater support

ESL education does not get enough support from society (Busting a language barrier, Nov. 11).

These students are here because their families want a better life for their children, the same as any family living in America now. Being bilingual is a plus in this global economy. Why else do we have our English-speaking students learn another language while in middle and high school as part of the curriculum? Do you think it is any easier for our kids to learn another language?

Individuals who cannot comprehend that this great country was built on the hard labor of immigrants need to reread their history books. It is a known fact that the immigrants coming to this country are not taking jobs from our citizens - they are doing jobs that no one else will do.

I myself am a granddaughter of Italian immigrants and am glad to have the foundation of speaking Italian as a child. This Latin-based language is a boost in learning Spanish for my current position in an urban school district. Communication with students is not the issue, it is communicating effectively with parents so that they understand what their child is learning and what the expectations for them are.

Teaching English to these students is the best thing that we as a country can do for these students. These students have the drive to succeed that many of our own students' generation has lost by soft living. The only difference is that the incoming students are willing to work for that opportunity. Are our kids?

Laurie VanderZee

Comstock Park, Mich.

Parents must be responsible

Ask yourself why teaching children the local language has become a taxpayer-funded program, rather than the parents' responsibility (Busting a language barrier, Nov. 11)?

Rick Zehr

Sauvie Island

Program creates successful adults

Congratulations to the team at Whitman for addressing a situation with professionalism and creative thinking (Busting a language barrier, Nov. 11).

With such wonderful support, the students are making gains and will become successful adults who contribute to our nation of immigrants.

Sean Thomas Fleming

St. Paul, Minn.

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