The results from the Los Angeles unified school district earlier this year suggested California’s abandonment of bilingual education in favor of English immersion was the right choice. Now statewide test scores are in,
and the results look even more impressive. In fact, they have won a convert.
Ken Noonan — founder of the California Association of Bilingual Educators — predicted the approval of Proposition 227, mandating instruction in English, two years ago would prove disastrous for Spanish-speaking children. “The exact reverse occurred, totally unexpected by me,” he says now. “The kids began to learn — not pick up, but learn —
formal English, oral and written, far more quickly than I ever thought they would.”
In the past two years, the average reading score for second-graders classified as limited in English rose nine percentage points; in math, the average score rose 14 points. Some skeptics are looking for wiggle room, for example by pointing to a renewed emphasis on testing. But one fact is incontestable: Scores did not fall, as critics of Prop 227 said they would.
Determining which educational methods work and which do not stirs no end of controversy (as Virginians following first Outcome-Based Education and now the Standards of Learning reform effort know all too well). But so far Prop 227 has passed every test with flying colors. The debate over bilingual education soon may be closed for good.