Calling the state’s 29-year-old bilingual education laws a
“colossal mistake,” a state senator plans to file a bill today that
would limit bilingual education to one year before moving students on
to English language classes.

Embracing the radical reforms of California’s Proposition 227,
which effectively ended bilingual education after its 1997 passage,
state Sen. Guy Glodis (D-Worcester) said state regulations are unfair
to the state’s 44,000 students who speak limited English.

“Statistic after statistic, fact after fact has demonstrated that
bilingual education has failed the very students it intended to
help,” Glodis said yesterday. “It was a mistake of epic proportions.
We, as a government and as a society, have an obligation to right a
wrong.”

A draft of Glodis’ bill states children will learn English “by
being taught in English” and that they shall be promoted to
mainstream classes after demonstrating a “good working knowledge” of
English.

Similar efforts to curb bilingual education in the 1990s met with
failure in the Legislature and yesterday opponents were already
taking aim at Glodis’ proposal.

“This is worse. One year of sheltered English instruction and
nothing else,” said Tom Louie, director of the Mass. English Plus
Coalition. “People forget their own learning experience. Do you think
that after one year of foreign language you could go on and learn
history, math and other topics in that langauge?”

Former Boston School Committee member Felix Arroyo said bilingual
education should be reformed, but not scrapped.

“He’s treating it as the problem,” said Arroyo. “It’s a tool. Is
it being used adequately or not? Has it been given adequate resources
or not? Those are the questions that need to be answered before it is
discharged completely.”

Glodis argues the state’s bilingual education system is the
problem because it can shield students from English and hinder their
future learning.

The state’s bilingual education students can spend three or more
years in Transitional Bilingual Education programs, where they learn
subjects in their primary language as English is gradually
introduced.

As many as 80 percent of the students transfer to mainstream
classrooms within three years, the state has said.

Glodis repeated statistics that just two months ago Hispanic
leaders cited to show the widening “achievement gap” – reflected in
test scores and dropout rates – between Hispanic students and their
white peers.

Glodis said his proposal would eliminate a funding formula that
provides financial incentives to hold children in bilingual programs
for too long.

“Quite clearly, districts that have bilingual education are given
more money,” Glodis said. “There is very little motivation to move
kids out of bilingual education classes.”

Glodis would allow a few exemptions to the one-year limit,
including giving parents the chance to seek a waiver if they want
their child to remain in the immersion program. At their parents’
request, special needs students and children older than 10 years of
age would be allowed to remain in bilingual programs for longer, more
flexible periods.

Abigail Thernstrom, a Board of Education member who has talked
about reforming the system, backed the proposal.

“I would certainly like to see children out of bilingual classes
that are in fact linguistic cultural maintenance courses,” said
Thernstrom. “They need to learn English.”



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