Incorporating Ebonics into a new school policy that targets black students, the lowest-achieving group in the San Bernardino City Unified School District, may provide students a more well-rounded curriculum, said a local sociologist.
The goal of the district’s policy is to improve black students’ academic performance by keeping them interested in school. Compared with other racial groups in the district, black students go to college the least and have the most dropouts and suspensions.
Blacks make up the second largest racial group in the district, trailing Latinos.
A pilot of the policy, known as the Students Accumulating New Knowledge Optimizing Future Accomplishment Initiative, has been implemented at two city schools.
Mary Texeira, a sociology professor at Cal State San Bernardino, commended the San Bernardino Board of Education for approving the policy in June.
Texeira suggested that including Ebonics in the program would be beneficial for students. Ebonics, a dialect of American English that is spoken by many blacks throughout the country, was recognized as a separate language in 1996 by the Oakland school board.
“Ebonics is a different language, it’s not slang as many believe,’ Texeira said. “For many of these students Ebonics is their language, and it should be considered a foreign language. These students should be taught like other students who speak a foreign language.’
Texeira said research has shown that students learn better when they fully comprehend the language they are being taught in.
“There are African Americans who do not agree with me. They say that (black students) are lazy and that they need to learn to talk,’ Texeira said.
Len Cooper, who is coordinating the pilot program at the two city schools, said San Bernardino district officials do not plan to incorporate Ebonics into the program.
“Because Ebonics can have a negative stigma, we’re not focusing on that,’ Cooper said. “We are affirming and recognizing Ebonics through supplemental reading books (for students).’
Beginning in the 2005-06 school year, teachers will receive training on black culture and customs. District curriculum will now include information on the historical, cultural and social impact of blacks in society. Although the program is aimed at black students, other students can choose to participate.