An English-immersion program that spawned controversy when launched by the Orange Unified School District a year ago is successfully helping children who speak little or no English learn the language faster than bilingual education, a consultant’s report found.
“The program is extremely successful,” said Kevin Clark of Stockton-based Clark Consulting Group. “My only recommendation would be not to stop doing what you’re doing.”
The district was one of the first in the state to halt bilingual instruction for 5,000 elementary students in all 37 of its schools. Legal cases brought by activist groups opposed to the move delayed the start of English-immersion instruction until November.
The study found that by the end of the year, 81% of students in the program were at advanced stages of English fluency. That means those students gained enough English to participate “at a high level” in classroom work.
While these students did not achieve test scores as high as classmates who speak English as a first language, Clark cautioned that most are still not completely fluent. He said the data showed that advanced levels of fluency relate directly to higher levels of academic achievement.
District trustees, who heard a presentation from Clark on Thursday, said the results justified the financial and emotional struggles of the court challenges.
“It is gratifying to see the fruits of all our sacrifices,” said Trustee Robert Viviano, who had initiated the move to English immersion last year.