Proponents of the “English for the Children” initiative say that state programs for students who are not fluent in English have an “annual failure rate” of 95%–a contention that bilingual advocates call a gross distortion.

The figure, widely circulated in campaign literature, draws on the state’s annual count of English-learning students who attain fluency.

The statewide rate for such conversions is now nearly 7%, up from 5%
a few years ago. Santa Ana schoolteacher Gloria Matta Tuchman, co-sponsor of a proposed state initiative that would end most bilingual teaching, says the data show that state policies favoring bilingual education are failing the other 93%.

But more than half of students classified as English learners are not taught primarily in their native language because of a shortage of bilingual teachers and variations in local policy.

In addition, bilingual advocates say, a one-year snapshot fails to measure accurately a language-learning process that can take years.

Matta Tuchman’s school, Taft Elementary in Santa Ana, uses English-immersion classes. Its annual English conversion rate is about 17%. That is more than double the state average. But using the logic of the “English for the Children” campaign, it could be argued that Taft–the school that Matta Tuchman holds up as a model–has an 83% failure rate.

“That’s not the way I look at it,” Matta Tuchman said.

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