The State Board of Education decided several years ago to let selected school boards drop bilingual education temporarily in favor of other methods of meeting the needs of non-English-speaking students. While there is valid concern that it often takes too long to get students from classes in their native language to an English-language curriculum, the board made a mistake last week in picking the Orange Unified School District as one of the sites of the experiment.

Orange Unified has made several bad decisions in recent years, from ending counseling at schools to trying to stop an elementary school from accepting any grant not related to academics. The board also has been frequently at odds with its teachers and too often has ignored the voices of parents.

The state board rejected the recommendation of its staff and gave Orange the go-ahead to drop bilingual education. But the board did insist that the Orange experiment last only one year, a wise restriction. The state also must watch the program closely and discontinue it if the new method is not an improvement over the current bilingual classes.

Any change, such as the one in Orange, will have to ensure that students are not left behind because of an inability to understand the language being used in the classroom.

The federal government has expressed proper concern over the Orange experiment’s impact on special-education students who speak limited English. There are valid state and federal regulations designed to ensure that all students have access to a good education. Orange will have to see that it meets those rules.

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