California State University, Long Beach
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CSULB Partnership Finds Balances Between Theory and Practice

A five-year partnership between CSULB’s Multiple Subject Credential Program (MSCP), the Bilingual Cross-Cultural Language and Academic Development Program (BCLAD) and a new public charter school in Long Beach has seen the hiring of 10 College of Education student teachers.

Teacher Education’s Olga Rubio serves as coordinator of the MSCP/BCLAD programs at CSULB and points with pride to cooperation with the New City Schools, a public charter campus that operates in the Long Beach Unified School District. “This partnership illustrates how schools are hiring bilingual teachers and that the field of bilingual education is alive and well,” said Rubio, who joined the university in 1997.

The New City Schools, with locations on Pine Avenue and Long Beach Boulevard, emphasize bilingualism/multiculturalism, creative expression, reasoning, health and community engagement. With an enrollment of 360 elementary and middle school students, the school offers an alternative to the large and often impersonal traditional education system for families of English language learners in low-income households. “As coordinator of the program, it is important to me to be able to place our student teachers in bilingual settings where Spanish is used as a primary language or as a second language as in the case of a dual-language immersion school,” she said. “What is so exciting for the College of Education is that this partnership provides our students with the opportunity to see native speakers of Spanish learning English and English speakers learning Spanish as a second language. This is very exciting.”

One reason for the partnership’s success is CSULB’s instructional balance between theory and practice. “The New City Schools find our students very appropriate for their campuses because they consider our students as having a nice mix of teaching strategies from the practical to the theoretical,” she said. “I’ve been told that other schools are either one way or the other.”

Rubio applauds the CSULB-New City Schools partnership as indicative of the future of bilingual instruction in California. “After the passage of Proposition 227, the 1998 English-only initiative, little need was seen for bilingual instruction. What is clear to me despite the passage of 227, which dismantled the transitional bilingual education program in California, is that the development of dual-language immersion programs is still allowed, although they are few and far between,” she said. “Altogether, there may be 330 programs in the nation. Of those, 100 are found in Southern California (Center of Applied Linguistics, 2007). Over 10 years in Long Beach, there were four such programs. Now the New City Schools have added two new dual language immersion programs and four other schools are projected within the next four years including a dual language immersion high school.”

Rubio received her bachelor of science degree in elementary education in 1974 from Texas A&I University in Laredo. She went on to earn her master of arts in bilingual-bicultural teacher training/English as a second language in 1977 from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Her Ph.D. in education, culture and society came in 1994 from the University of Pennsylvania.

One of the keys to the partnership’s success is listening. “The New City Schools directors communicate with us and we communicate with them,” Rubio said. “They understand that CSULB student teachers must demonstrate strong standards-based instruction in Spanish and in English. In addition, we add critical theoretical perspectives as well as dual-language immersion perspectives. They are at the core of CSULB teacher preparation and very much aligned with the College of Education’s mission and goals.” 

Rubio believes partnerships like these bode well for the future of bilingual instruction. “There is a misconception that learning a second language takes away from English instruction,” she said. “Maintaining a second language doesn’t take away from being an American but it does foster an English-plus perspective. There is actually a dual-language immersion program in El Paso, Texas, that offers a third language, the Alicia Chacon International School, and I find that idea promotes multilingualism in our society. At CSULB we also have BCLAD programs for Asian language speakers may select one of several languages offered such as Cantonese/Mandarin, Vietnamese, Cambodian/Khmer and Korean.”

The future of bilingual instruction at CSULB will be a long and happy one, Rubio believes. “This is a stable program with a commitment of support from dean and departments,” she said. “I see our BCLAD program as ongoing despite the passage of Proposition 227. We will continue to find effective ways to foster bilingualism in a positive way.”