Center for Educational Justice panel

Experts cite system flaws in teaching English-language learners

Labels, scripted lessons and standardized testing discourage learning in schools, they say.

Feb. 17, 2012—Scripted lessons, mandated books and standardized testing have confined teaching to a set of models that don’t fit for every student, a group of experts told an audience of teachers and education students Thursday at the University of Redlands.

“Teachers have been dehumanized and domesticated,” said University of Redlands Professor Dr. Susan Porter. “Just show up and go through the scripted learning. The solution lies in preparing good teachers, having reflective teachers in the classrooms and then giving them the keys.”

Porter was one of four experts addressing the needs of English learners and special needs students as part of the University of Redlands Center for Educational Justice’s ongoing speaker series.

Today’s education system is rife with “riddiculums,” said San Bernardino School Board President Dr. Barbara Flores.

Widespread disrespect for educators, children and their families has led to the demise of public schooling, she said. Students learning English are given labels – LEPs, FEPs and NEPs – that stigmatize them, impair their learning and damage their perception of themselves.

“How would you like to be a ‘lep?’” she asked, referring to the Limited English Proficiency label. “These are children we’re talking about.”

Flores, who touted the advantages of being multi-lingual, was one of four panelists at the University of Redlands Center for Educational Justice’s ongoing speaker series. Other panelists included Drs. Jose Lalas and Susan Porter of the University of Redlands, and Dr. Ayanna Balogun, a teacher with the Rialto Unified School District.

All speakers agreed that teachers should be given more autonomy to address student needs on an individual level, incorporating “cultural responsiveness” that emphasizes the human element in the student: his or her cultural background, economic status, primary language and other attributes that make people who they are.

“Give students options,” said Balogun, who recently completed an in-depth study of the impacts of current teaching methods on students of African-American descent. “Build relationships with your students using their culture as a bridge.”

Balogun said she often hears teachers tell her, “I don’t see race.”

“If you don’t,” she said, “you invalidate who your students are.”

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