California is the only state in the country with a one-year-and-out English-immersion program or, as some call it, an anti-bilingual education program.

Colorado could become the second, if proponents drum up enough support and signatures to get it on the November ballot and voters here endorse it.

California voters overwhelmingly passed an anti-bilingual education initiative two years ago, but it is still too early to tell for certain whether teaching kids English as quickly as possible will be successful there.

One school district, however, about 30 miles north of San Diego is showing major improvements on standardized tests. The Oceanside School District,
with about 22,000 students, a fifth of whom were in bilingual instruction,
credits the English initiative and a move to phonics as reasons for the success.

‘Certainly the structured immersion classrooms can’t be ignored as contributors to the success,’ said Oceanside spokeswoman Cindy Sabato.

For example, fifth-graders who are English-language learners in Oceanside jumped from the sixth percentile last year to the 22nd percentile this year on reading tests – that’s a 267 percent increase, Sabato said.

>From grade to grade, there are similar improvements.

The school district was one of a few in California where parents did not seek waivers for alternative bilingual programs, allowed under the law. And it is the district that showed the largest gains in test scores for its students who are in the English-immersion program.

‘It seems pretty clear that everybody in California is happy with it,
except the (bilingual-education supporters),’ said Linda Chavez, director of the One Nation Indivisible group in Washington, D.C., who has joined U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., to get the Colorado initiative on the ballot.

Carlos Illescas’ e-mail address is cillescas@denverpost.com.



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