Cesar Ch¡vez’s Big Day

by Martha Sadler

The first class to graduate from César Chávez Charter School was showered with accolades that sometimes moved them to tears, while students warmly remembered their classmates, teachers, and parents. The audience for the Wednesday evening ceremony included Mayor Marty Blum and City Councilmember Grant House, who was one of the school’s founders. Four of the nine graduating sixth-graders were part of the school’s original combination first- and second-grade class in 2000. Founded one year after California all but eliminated bilingual education in regular public schools, César Chávez teaches Spanish literacy to native English speakers and English literacy to native Spanish speakers; the ceremony was conducted in the non-repetitive translation method meant to keep the audience interested in both versions of the message. Chávez School came under fire this year from critics of bilingual education when its standardized state test results from last June came in at the lowest overall in the Santa Barbara elementary school district. Principal Eva Neuer said that when the results are in from the most recent end-of-year testing, the school intends to disaggregate the scores to see how students are scoring who have been with the school since kindergarten. Nate Monley, the graduating students’ combination fifth- and sixth-grade teacher, added that the majority of students with the program since the beginning tested proficient or advanced in last year’s state tests. Even more importantly, he said, the Chávez graduates all “love learning, they are great students, and they are prepared [to study] for college, as well as for life.”

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