Mexican Curriculum in Oregon Schools Stirs Debate

Associated Press, September 20, 2007

Some Oregon high schools are adopting Mexico’s public school curriculum to help educate Spanish-speaking students with textbooks, an online Web site, DVDs and CDs provided free by Mexico to teach math, science and even U.S. history.

The Oregon Department of Education and Mexico’s Secretariat of Public Education are discussing aligning their curricula so courses will be valid in both countries.

Similar ventures are under way in Yakima, Wash., San Diego, Calif., and Austin, Texas.

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The idea is minimal disruption for immigrant Latinos.

“The availability of resources is astounding,” said Burk, who flew to Mexico with Oregon curriculum officials in August to discuss making equivalency standards official. “We’re able to serve the students so much better if we’re working together.”

Mexico has made its national curriculum available to communities across the U.S. since 2001 to encourage Mexican adults and youths to continue an education often abandoned back home due to limited resources.

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In other places, the curriculum was used to educate students’ parents, rescue dropouts and even teach inmates. A program exists now at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn.

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In Washington state, nearly 30 schools have already implemented Mexico’s curriculum into the classrooms.

In Oregon, learning materials are free, but districts must pay for staff. So far, two computer servers supporting Mexico’s Web site cost the state about $10,000 to install and about $2,200 annually to maintain.

One of the biggest challenges will be finding more Spanish-speaking instructors, said Burk of the Oregon Department of Education.

He said about 15 percent of Oregon students are Latino, compared with 2 percent of teachers.

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