Orange board gets good report on English-only

Students spend less time at lower proficiency levels under new program, consultant finds.

ORANGE – In its first year, the Orange Unified School District’s English-immersion program significantly accelerated the language development of the district’s limited-English students, according to a new report.

The study found that the district’s immersion program was particularly successful in reducing the time limited-English students spent at the two lowest stages of English proficiency.

The district classifies each of its nearly 5,000 limited-English students in one of four fluency stages, moving them higher as they progress.

When the 1997-98 school year began, 38 percent of the district’s limited-English students had little or no English proficiency. By May 1998, that number had been reduced to 19 percent, said the study by Stockton-based educational consultant Kevin Clark.

The report was presented to the Orange Unified school board Thursday. The findings likely will be closely studied throughout the state as California public schools gear up their own programs to implement English-based instruction in the wake of Proposition 227’s passage in June.

Orange Unified is the largest of four districts – all in Orange County – granted general waivers by the state board of education from bilingual-education requirements before the passage of 227. The other districts were Westminster, Magnolia and Savanna.

The study also concluded that “faster English learning correlates to faster and higher academic achievement.” That finding is also likely to be widely discussed because other studies have suggested that limited-English students comprehend subjects better with longer periods of native-language instruction.<

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