SPANISH-speaking students have improved academic performance
since passage of a California law requiring English instruction,
according to a New York Times story datelined Aug. 17.

Two years ago, voters approved a measure ending bilingual
education, forcing 1 million students into classes in English.
Prophecies of disaster “have not materialized,” according to
reporter Jacques Steinberg. “In second grade, for example, the
average score in reading of a student classified as limited in
English increased 9 percentage points over the last two years, to
the 28th percentile from the 19th percentile in national rankings,
according to the state. In mathematics, the increase in the average
score for the same students was 14 points, to the 41st percentile
from the 27th.”

Steinberg reports that Ken Noonan – whose mother, a Mexican,
never learned English – “likened the change in his position on
bilingual education over the last two years to a religious
conversion.”

Noonan now says he was wrong about the initiative’s effect on
Mexican and other Spanish-speaking youngsters in the state: “I
thought it would hurt kids. The exact reverse occurred, totally
unexpected by me. The kids began to learn – not pick up, but learn
– formal English, oral and written, far more quickly than I ever
thought they would…. Here are kids, within nine months in the first year, and they literally learned to read.”



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