Advocates yesterday blasted a Board of Education report comparing bilingual and English as a Second Language programs as flawed because it only shows how fast children learn English.
Board of Education member Luis Reyes, in a news conference, said the release of the findings gives the public an incomplete picture of bilingual education, a program that must include ESL instruction while youngsters learn subjects in their native language.
“A study that looks at English reading scores and rapidity of exit . . . is a flawed study and can be used as an excuse to dump on bilingual education,” Reyes said.
The study, which tracked more than 25,000 youngsters ranging from kindergarten through ninth grade, found that while children who received bilingual/ESL scored well on citywide math and reading tests last year, ESL-only students tested out of the services faster and appeared to have better test scores.
“There can be many reasons for that that remain to be explored,” said Robert Tobias, director of the board’s research and evaluation division.
Reyes, whose efforts helped launch bilingual education in the public schools 20 years ago, said the study does not take into account economic conditions, the quality of the English students learn, and academic performance or how long bilingual kids stay in school – demonstrated in other studies.
There are currently more than 170,000 students of limited English ability who are receivng either bilingual or ESL-only instruction.
“It may take longer but what is the goal? To have students gradute, to have skills, to have jobs, to be residents who contribute to society,” Reyes said. “If the idea is to get them in and out as quickly as possible to save money then we are shortchanging young people.”
Schools Chancellor Ramon Cortines, concerned about the quality of the instruction overall, called for the preliminary report on bilingual education but cautioned that no policy conclusion could be drawn yet.