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Influx of non-English speakers makes education difficult

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In 2007, after 34 years of public school teaching, two decades of which were spent in a downtown Salt Lake high school, I took an early retirement. Why? One of the contributing factors was the overwhelming influx of Hispanic students. Before you think I am just a bigot, let me describe the teaching situation we faced then and teachers continue to face now, to a greater degree. When I started teaching in the high school in 1987, the student population for all minority students was about 12 percent. When I retired, the school population of Hispanics alone was up to 51 percent.

Imagine, more than half the students in downtown Salt Lake classrooms being Hispanic? This creates an impossible teaching situation. How can one teacher teach and plan a curriculum with English textbooks where 51 percent of the students speak little or no English at all? Furthermore, what is a teacher to do with the other 49 percent of the English-speaking students who come to school expecting to receive a normal education? Their parents should be outraged at what they cannot be taught in a situation like that. At that time, Hispanic students could not be grouped together in classes because that was "discriminatory." I hope that ridiculous restriction has been changed now.

While the members of the Utah State Board of Education are still patting themselves on the back for adopting the federal curriculum guidelines for Utah schools last week, teachers cynically smirk because they know what the realities inside the classroom truly are. School board members need to go back to school to see what really can and can not be accomplished with such a mix of English and non-English speaking populations.

Should we think through carefully and compassionately the whole illegal immigrant situation? Of course. But shouldn't we also save some of that compassion for the common English-speaking students whose education is getting short-changed?

Cathy Pearce Anderegg of Sandy is a retired educator.