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Miami-Dade Postpones Proposed Changes to Foreign Language Instruction

Miami-Dade schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho told the Miami Herald that he will postpone scheduled changes to the way the district teaches foreign languages.

Amid growing criticism of his plan, the superintendent will convene a task force to work on proposals that could roll out during the 2016-17 school year.

Under Carvalho's proposed plan, students would not receive bilingual instruction unless they're in intensive language immersion programs with instruction in subjects such as math, science, and social studies split between English and another language.

Once fully implemented, the school system's "extended foreign language" program would bolster foreign language instruction by making it more intensive, but not available to all students.

The district has already begun to phase out daily 30-minute Spanish classes for kindergarten, 1st grade and 2nd grade students, a move that has drawn criticism from the NAACP, League of United Latin American Citizens, and other groups. The instruction for 3rd grade students would have been cut this fall.

Educators who would have been charged with executing the "extended foreign language" program also had objections.

A story by Miami Herald reporter Christian Veiga highlights the concerns of Spanish-language teachers. Many said that they would be forced to teach classes in Spanish in math or other subjects in which they are not certified. Veiga's piece also reveals that Miami-Dade schools, based in a region with a sizable Spanish-speaking population, struggles to find qualified Spanish teachers.

Carvalho told the newspaper's editorial board that parents' demand for rigorous bilingual education for their children prompted the district to explore ways to overhaul how it teaches students a second language.

"This has never been about getting rid of bilingualism; it's about improving the way we teach Spanish," Mr. Carvalho said.

Now district officials are headed back to the drawing board.

Rosa Castro Feinberg, an English-language learner activist and former Miami-Dade school board member, said in an interview with Education Week that she applauds Carvalho "for his decision to upgrade Spanish programs with input from stakeholders and expert members of a task force."

"He has shown wisdom ... in thereby respecting his board members' oft stated support for instruction leading to biliteracy. A fully transparent process for the task force will do much to allay the concerns of Miami-Dade communities," she said.

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