Ana-Maria Greene says when it comes to assessing Proposition 227, you have to give credit where credit is due.
“Of course, the kids under 227 are speaking more oral English,” said Greene, a bilingual resource teacher at Lincoln Elementary in Anaheim. “Those kids are building on the skills they learned through bilingual education.”
Greene believes that most of the kids who went into English immersion were taught phonics and decoding skills in Spanish and are now applying those skills in learning English.
Greene argues that even the end-of-the-year Stanford 9 test will not be an accurate measure of the true effects of Prop. 227.
“Kids should have been tested before they went into English-only classes,” Greene said. “Then you test those same kids at the end of the year again to measure their growth (after being exposed to English). Otherwise, it’s invalid.”
Greene says 227’s negative repercussions will become apparent when students face tougher academic challenges.
However, Greene says, a positive side effect of the English mandate is that non-Spanish-speaking teachers are engaged in more direct instruction ? meaning the teacher, rather than a bilingual assistant, is doing most of the teaching.
? Elizabeth Chey
The number “227” once seemed like an invasion of privacy for Dora Godinez.
“I didn’t want a law to decide what was best for my children. I didn’t want the law to take my son out of a program he was excelling in,” said Godinez, who asked for a waiver to put her third-grade son, Rodolfo, back into bilingual education after the initiative passed in June.
Godinez treasures her right to choose, saying her older children are perfect examples of why parents need choices. Her oldest son, a transitional bilingual student until third grade, now holds a 3.9 grade-point average, learning all subjects in English. Her middle daughter was more inclined to English and was immersed. She gets help from a language specialist.
“Each child needs a program to fit their needs,” said Godinez. In asking for a waiver, Godinez said, she exercised a right she had before Proposition 227.
“Parents have always had the option to put their child in bilingual or English-only programs. The law hasn’t changed that.”
Rodolfo has progressed steadily in the bilingual program at Washington Elementary in Santa Ana, his mother said. Now, all his schoolwork is in English.
“Overall, the law had very little impact on our lives,” Godinez said. “He is learning English as he would have without the law.”
? Elizabeth Chey
Third-grade teacher Chris Damore is hearing a lot more English around school these days, but he doesn’t know if it will translate to improved academic achievement.
At Martin Elementary in Santa Ana, he has taught limited-English children for 4 1/2 years, and he says there’s a consistent pattern.
“Usually, the kids who come from bilingual classes have an easier time moving into English. They understand the phonics; they understand reading. It’s usually the grammar that throws them off,” said Damore, who teaches students who learned under both bilingual and English-immersion methods.
With students from immersion classes, he says, it all depends on the child. Some get the phonics and reading skills. Some don’t.
“I’m very interested in seeing the effects of 227,” said Damore, who is taking a wait-and-see posture. “But we won’t be able to tell until this year’s kindergartners are third-graders.”
Damore sees positive results in students’ oral fluency, reading and writing, math, and social studies from teaching a sheltered English class, but sees a dire problem: the parents’ inability to help with homework.
“I have students who couldn’t review their spelling lists,” Damore said. “Their parents can’t review the homework because they can’t read the words.”
? Elizabeth Chey
Sandra Pistole thought Proposition 227 would hold back her kindergarten class at R.H. Dana Elementary School. That didn’t happen.
“I started this year scared, but I’m happy,” said Pistole, a teacher for five years. “Actually, I’m covering more material.”
Her 20 Spanish-speaking students are learning the alphabet, counting to 10, reciting the days of the week, reporting the weather, and naming the seasons, colors and shapes in English.
It took a lot of effort.
Pistole said she changed the way she teaches ? relying less on words and more on gestures, props and pictures to cross the language barrier. She spends about 10 percent to 20 percent of her day speaking in Spanish, down from 90 percent last year.
Pistole also credited support from her school ? new training, new English books to replace the old ones in Spanish and outreach efforts to communicate with parents.
Although her students seem to be thriving now, Pistole is cautious about the future, because some research questions the long-term benefits of English immersion.
“I think you’ll have to wait to see how my kids are doing in sixth grade,” she said. “But from what I’ve seen so far, it can work.”
? John Gittelsohn
Beatrice Delgado and Carmen Diaz
Beatrice Delgado and Carmen Diaz share a common past in Mexico and a common present as mothers of students who speak limited English at Las Positas School in La Habra.
Both women opposed Proposition 227. But now they disagree about the law.
“Before, my daughter wasn’t learning English,” Diaz, a mother of three, said of her oldest child, Nancy, 7. “Now she is.”
“I can’t help my children with their homework,” said Delgado, a mother of five children ages 4 to 10. “I am also afraid that the children will lose their Spanish, forget about their roots.”
“My children aren’t going to lose their roots,” Diaz said. “They can learn Spanish at home.”
Parents at Las Positas, where about half of the 637 third- through fifth-graders speak limited English, seemed equally divided over whether things are better or worse under 227. No parents requested waivers to keep their kids in bilingual classes.
Meanwhile, the children report no problems adjusting.
“I like learning in English,” said Diana Delgado, 8.
? John Gittelsohn