As a teenaged immigrant from Ecuador, Laura C. Morana learned English the old-fashioned way. No English as Second Language classes, no bilingual ed, just grind-it-out translations of her biology and algebra lessons, watching TV and talking to fellow students at Irvington High School. In this, she was pushed by her parents.
“They were very supportive and knew the need for us, and them, to learn it,” she says.
Today, her life experience as an immigrant and career educator gives Morana a perspective not often heard in the debate about the rising number of Hispanic students in American schools. For starters, she says, it’s wrong to assume, as some critics do, that new Americans dont want to learn English.
“They may settle in language communities, but we can’t generalize,” she says. “It depends on level of education and aspiration for their kids. Young families here are learning English. They want that for their kids.”
Morana, who recently completed her first year as Superintendent of Schools in Red Bank, sat down with redbankgreen‘s Linda G. Rastelli earlier this week to talk about language education, the importance of “rigorous curriculum,” and what she’s doing to control costs.
As the new school year begins, what are the top three issues that the Red Bank school system is confronting?
The biggest challenge is the enhancement of our language arts literacy program, focusing our instruction in reading and writing, from pre-K to 8th grade. [Second,] enhancing the rigor of the middle school curriculum, for one thing by establishing an honors program. The third would be the ongoing assessment of student learning, which has been in place but not as comprehensive as it could be.