January 29, 2014

PPS Increases Opportunities for ESL Students

APANO Statement on Dual Language Immersion Expansion

January 27, 2014
Dr. Diana Pei Wu
Director of Organizing
Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon

Good evening. My name is Diana Pei Wu and I am the Director of Organizing for the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO).

APANO has over 3,000 constituents, who work to ensure the 220,000 Asians and Pacific Islanders throughout the state of Oregon are fully engaged in the political decisions that affect us. One of our top priorities is to address persistent disparities that affect Asian and Pacific Islanders in Portland Public Schools, specifically English Language Learners.

As the Asian and Pacific Islander, or API, community continues to grow in the Portland-region, we applaud PPS for their evaluation and commitment to improving services to our communities. A major development which we suport is an investment in Dual Language Immersion. We endorse the expansion plan, which is a significant step forward that will help API families stay in PPS and continue to deepen and strengthen its connection with local schools and the surrounding communities.

This investment serves a needed, and proven effective, strategy that is needed to help API students meet the benchmark targets as outlined in your 2013-14 approved Achievement Compact, and we thank the Portland Alliance of Teachers for their support of DLI expansion for English Language Learning students, who are our Emerging Bilingual student!

Dual Language Immersion is also a personally important to issue for me. As a child, my parents only spoke Mandarin at home. When I started pre-school, I was fluent. As an adult, having attending English only schools, I’m now at the level that I can watch soap operas, but not understand the evening news. That is a shame, to have been fluent, and to have had to lose that language and communication. Dual Language Immersion offers children like my 5 year old self the opportunity to not have to lose their language and their ability to communicate with their parents, grandparents, cousins, and extended family, at a higher level, succeed in school and be prepared for a multilingual work. DLI expansion with equity as a guiding value helps us get there. Thank you.

We expect PPS to follow through on their equity commitment to 50% Chinese native speakers and 50% English native speakers by Fall 2017. In the community meeting we attended, with nearly 100 members of the Chinese community, we heard surprise and frustration from our PPS parents that the program at Woodstock is 95% non-Chinese speaking. We know that cultural competency is tied to immersion in the culture, and that the culture of a classroom or a school is not just held by a single teacher in the front of the classroom, it is held through interaction with peers, with their families, and all the daily small things that are, in fact, cultural. 50% equity slots for Chinese speakers benefits all the students at the school.

We are deeply disappointed this has not been achieved for the coming school year, as there is a documented need to better serve Chinese ELL students in PPS. We know that this journey is one that is challenging and none of us got 100% of what we wanted in this package. We at APANO understand that this is a first big step in the road and we look forward to continuing to improve the options for DLI for all PPS students to meet equity standards. This is groundbreaking work!

Finally, on behalf of the 32 Chinese-speaking families who have kindergarteners starting this fall, and the hundreds and thousands of Asian and Pacific Islander students in Portland Public Schools, we thank you for supporting working to improve and expand Dual Language Immersion with equity as a core value in Portland.