DAN RATHER, anchor:
At a hearing today here in New York, city officials and educators discussed a plan to offer so-called immersion English programs as an option for non-English-speaking students. This is part of a growing trend in this country against bilingual education. Which brings us to a report Sandra Hughes has been preparing in Arizona, tonight’s Eye on America.
SANDRA HUGHES reporting:
In a state where 140,000 children begin each school day speaking Spanish,
the days of bilingual education, teaching students in their native language,
may be numbered. This November, Arizona voters are expected to close the books on this 30-year teaching tradition.
Unidentified Student #1: Purple, morado.
HUGHES: The alternative: A cold turkey approach called English immersion,
already in place in neighboring California.
Ms. MARGARET GARCIA-DUGAN (Principal, Glendale High School): I’ve always always believed that an English immersion is the most sound and–and sensible way to learn a language.
HUGHES: Margaret Garcia-Dugan is the principal at Glendale High School near Phoenix.
Ms. GARCIA-DUGAN: Students that have bilingual education are–are not proficient in reading and writing and speaking of English.
HUGHES: In California, where English only became law two years ago,
statewide reading scores for English learners jumped nine percentage points.
Math went up 14.
Unidentified Student #2: That’s not right.
HUGHES: Scores soared even higher in Oceanside where Christian Dominguez began an English immersion class after arriving from Mexico last year.
CHRISTIAN DOMINGUEZ (Student): My friend Jonathan, he said, ‘Wow, you can speak a lot of English.’
HUGHES: Oceanside’s success shocked its superintendent, who never believed the English-only law would work.
Mr. KEN NOONAN (Superintendent, Oceanside School District): Thirty years of of commitment to something is hard just to set aside, but I think I was wrong. I have to admit that. They love school, they’re absorbing the English, learning quickly.
HUGHES: There are still many educators who believe in the bilingual approach. Most of them argue California’s success is due to other factors like smaller class size, and with billions of education dollars at stake,
bilingual supporters have a vested interest in keeping the programs alive.
Unidentified Man: Bilingual education works.
HUGHES: With their entire profession under attack, publishers, college professors and bilingual teachers vow to fight.
State Senator JOE EDDIE LOPEZ (Democrat, Arizona): There has not yet been developed a program that outperforms bilingual education, and so we just don’t think that we ought to get rid of it.
HUGHES: But facing hard evidence that English immersion works, bilingual education may soon be erased from every American classroom. In Phoenix, this is Sandra Hughes for Eye on America.