Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Teacher exchange program helps schools

The current immigration debate is largely based on legal status and job occupation, but the people who are mostly forgotten among the rancor are the children of immigrants.

Regardless of these children’s citizenship status, they are often struggling in school. Having monolingual parents speaking Spanish in the home adds difficulty to many students’ ability to hold their own among classmates.

Many opponents of immigration question the responsibility of the education system to provide resources like bilingual and English as a Second Language (ESL) classes necessary for these children to catch up. Some others cite extra expense for these programs as an argument against them.

However, there are cost effective options, one of which is a teacher exchange.

In 1997, schools in Dalton and Winfield, Ga., noticed the influx of Spanish-speaking immigrants taking jobs in their carpet factories, and decided to address the problem of underachieving children in their schools.

An agreement called the Monterrey Accord was established an exchange program between teachers in the Dalton and Winfield schools and teaching assistants from the University of Monterrey in Mexico.

American teachers were allowed to learn Spanish through immersion and were given a crash-course in Mexican culture and educational practices, which helped them communicate more effectively and empathetically with their Spanish-speaking students and Mexican parents. The Mexican teaching assistants helped with bilingual education and ESL and provided a vital link between students, parents, and school administrators.

The program remained successful for 10 years, as school personnel were able to reach the bilingual students in a way that improved their educational experience.

Then it was cut in 2007 due to budget restrictions and lack of funding. The disappearance of this program, however, should not be discouraging to the notion of putting it into practice in Alabama. This would be particularly helpful in Tuscaloosa County Schools, which are experiencing a recent influx of Latino immigrants. Responsible financial practices and creative budgeting could be used as methods to prolong a potentially successful program and make the most of dwindling education funds.

Finding local teachers who have comparable salaries to Mexican teaching assistants would help alleviate costs because money to pay these new employees would already be in the budget. The same is true for the Mexican educational institutions, which would also have it in their budgets to reimburse an American teacher for participating in the exchange. If this exchange were equal, then the only significant expense would be travel, a cost that pales in comparison to a salary.

Even if salaries weren’t all equal and additional funding was required, it would undoubtedly be worth the expense for Alabama schools to invest in their newest students who are quickly becoming a larger portion of the population. As these students face challenges in their schoolwork due to a language barrier, their test scores follow a downward trend, an occurrence that robs Alabama of additional educational funding under current federal programs.

Investing the money to work with these students makes the schools better overall, and strengthens the case for additional funding to help bring Alabama out of the gutter of educational inadequacy. For this reason, these children cannot be allowed to fail and become another statistic in the miserable figures of the Alabama educational system.

Lisa Elizondo is a sophomore majoring in American studies.

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