Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Opting Out of Dual-Language: Clarifications

In my last blog post, I mentioned that I had heard some parent concerns about children being forced into bilingual programs, but the district staff had assured me that all parents have the option of opting their children out of bilingual programs.  Before you accuse these parents of xenophobia, keep in mind that there are some children in our district who are struggling with basic reading/writing skills-- and if your child is in such a situation, it makes a lot of sense to want them spending 100% of their time on English skills instead of dividing their efforts. 

After the post, I was surprised to be contacted by some local parents who did feel that their children are being forced into dual-language, and communications with their local school had left the impression that they were on some kind of waiting list for an alternative, but not guaranteed an alternate placement.   If your child is in the attendance area for one of the designated dual-language schools, they will be placed in dual-language by default.    But Superintendent Scott assured me that all parents really do have the option to opt out of these programs.   It looked to me like there was a communications gap here, so I asked for improvements to the info on the district website.

If you go to the HSD website's Options section, you will now see that there is a subsection labeled 'Opting Out', which gives a clear procedure for parents to opt their children out of the dual-language or STEM programs if needed.  I'm glad to see that this is now clearly documented-- be sure to inform me if you do not see this process working, or if the district is refusing you a transfer out of dual-language.   By the way, the info on this page can also be used to transfer into the dual-language or STEM programs, if you are not at a school that offers them.

A few key points to take away from this discussion thread:
  • Keep reading this blog & contacting me if your family is affected by a topic mentioned here!   I was glad to see that people contacted me after my last post was inconsistent with their experience-- that's the whole reason I'm posting these things.
  • It's very important that 'exceptions' to typical processes are well-documented.   The district has a strategic objective of Equity, and I think it's a critical Equity failure if parents feel like they have to use inside knowledge/contacts to get the district to act on behalf of their children.
  • There is some variety in HSD's elementary school programs, and a well-defined procedure to transfer; don't just blindly accept your geographical assignment.   If you have a child with talents or interests that could especially benefit from the STEM, dual-language, or City View Charter opportunities, don't be afraid to request a transfer.   (Of course this doesn't take away from my oft-stated general opinion that we should be offering even more choice, including additional charters & real participation in Open Enrollment.)


  1. Well the reason that the schools might be so forceful about the Dual-Immersion Programs, is because they might be getting grant money for providing data about children in those programs. As in the case of Portland Public Schools and their revenue contract with RAND Corporation.

  2. I am currently struggling with the fact that I am not in a dual language only school, but have twins - so the school that I am in is effectively dual language only. They have 2 dual language classrooms and a single English strand. I am certain that having them go through all 7 years of elementary school in the same classroom will not be good for them developmentally, however I do not have the ability to invoke the Opt Out because technically I can access English only instruction. I think that they need to include an avenue for people with multiples that allows them to also Opt Out so that we aren't forced into Dual Language simply because we have more than one child in the same grade.

  3. Hi Kitt-- Good to hear from you. It sounds like you have a bit of a logistical challenge. Have you looked into the district's voluntary transfer process (distinct from the dual-language Opt Out)? Theoretically you should be able to apply for a transfer to another school in the district that has spare capacity.