‘No child’ policy includes
non-English speakers


The rise in the number of public school students who aren't proficient in English heightens the need for bilingual teachers.

WITH the increase in the number of public school children who need help learning English and the federal "No Child Left Behind" act in place, education officials in Hawaii should be particularly concerned about the lack of adequate teachers available to support these students.

If the children do not have sufficient command of English to understand the tests on which the law's failing-school designations will be based, the beleaguered public education system may be confronted with more difficulties. It will be a challenge for the Department of Education to fill this gap with the other problems it must deal with, but children who don't understand English cannot learn properly and without a decent education likely will become burdens instead of contributors to the community.

Nationwide, the shortage of bilingual teachers is of primary concern for Hispanic-speaking children. In Hawaii, large immigrant populations from Asia and Pacific islands demand more teachers in languages from these regions. While overall public school enrollment has decreased 8 percent to 185,860 in the past decade, the number of children who are not proficient in English has risen by about 42 percent to 12,879.

The problem here is aggravated by the dearth of colleges and universities that prepare bilingual teachers in Tagalog, Ilocano, Samoan and Marshallese. The University of Hawaii does not offer a bilingual certification program, presumably because public schools here do not offer bilingual classes, but instead require students to learn English, as they should.

The department does have 141 teachers who specialize in helping students for whom English is a second language by translating or interpreting classroom lessons and learning materials. However, the teachers are spread thin with only one available to support about 90 children.

In previous years, students with limited English skills were exempt from standardized assessment tests. However, the new federal legislation will require them to be tested along with other students, with the potential of lowering scores. Schools designated as failing face loss of funds, transfer of students at significant cost to the state and eventual dismantling. With 85 schools already deemed in trouble, the system cannot afford further erosion.

Education officials should consider beefing up the DOE's language-support staff, possibly working with the University of Hawaii as well as other Hawaii colleges to qualify more teachers, especially those who have been trained in the countries from which children have migrated.

Hawaii has always been proud of its multi-ethnic population, which has enriched the islands culturally. The newest members of our citizenry could further enhance the state if they are appropriately educated.


Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
Assistant Editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor 529-4762;

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4790;
John Flanagan, Contributing Editor 294-3533;

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