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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