Bilingual changes in place

OUSD already meets Proposition 227 with English immersion

ORANGE, CA—Orange Unified is one step ahead of area school districts struggling to function without bilingual education this school year.

The 1998-99 school year will be the second in which the district will use its Structured English Immersion Program _ an alternative adopted almost a year before Proposition 227 did away with bilingual education throughout the state.

Passed by California voters in June, Prop. 227 requires school districts to find alternatives to bilingual education.

Kevin Clark, the consultant hired to study the program’s impact over its seven-month trial period last year, said last week that Orange Unified’s program had a successful debut.

From November to May, the district’s LEP (or Learning English Proficiency) students enrolled in the English immersion program were tested on three separate occassions.

Clark said the evaluations suggest that 81 percent of the near 3,200 students monitored learned more English, which improved their academic performance.

“(The results) show that faster English proficiency equals faster academic achievement,” he said Aug. 20 in a report to the school board.

But some of the improvements were considered negligible. Many students increased their English knowledge, but remained in the lower levels of English proficiency.

Throughout this year, Orange Unified will continue to train teachers on immersion strategies, said Neil McKinnon, Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services.

“We know we can’t coast now,” McKinnon said. “Our program stills needs a lot of maintenance. “

Prop. 227 allows LEP students to receive some Spanish instruction during their first year in an immersion program. After that year, the students are supposed to be treated no differently than students speaking English as their primary language.

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