The state is doing a poor job teaching more than 1 million students to speak English and the Department of Education’s bilingual instruction policies are largely to blame, according to a report released Friday by the Little Hoover Commission.
The report, which was criticized by Department of Education officials as being biased and inaccurate, says it is “divisive, wasteful and unproductive” to require youths to be taught core courses in their native language until they are literate in English.
The commission said that although the number of students who do not speak English has nearly doubled since 1987, the number of students who have become fluent in English has not improved, hovering at about 60,000 a year for the last decade. The figure “indicates that either thousands of children are not making progress in English or assessments are not being done properly,” the report by the state watchdog agency said.
Also, more than 250,000 students who are not fluent in English receive no services despite laws and court decisions saying their educational needs must be met, the report said.
Under state requirements, school districts with students who do not speak English well enough to succeed in regular classrooms must offer some form of bilingual education.
“This bias permeates all of the department’s policies and procedures, effectively punishing schools that wish to pursue other options,” the report says.
The commission recommended state legislation that would allow school districts to set their own bilingual education policies and hold districts accountable for students’ achievement.
Norman Gold, who oversees the state’s bilingual education unit, said he was appalled that the commission “would be so careless” and said state policy has been misrepresented.
He said school districts are already free to seek state permission to draw their own bilingual education plan. The primary requirement is that the new programs are at least as effective as the state prescriptions.
He also said research shows that the state is using the most successful bilingual education policy.