Bilingual Ed Follow-Up

Promising results of English-only instruction

When Proposition 227, the Republican-backed measure requiring a shift away from bilingual education to English-immersion teaching, was passed by California voters in 1998, opponents cried doom. In practice, however, the results have been very encouraging, as this report by Los Angeles Times writer Louis Sahagun indicates.

At elementary schools scattered across Los Angeles, teachers are delivering promising reports that their students are learning English more quickly than anticipated six months after the implementation of the antibilingual education law, Proposition 227.

“I honestly didn’t expect to see them achieve as well as they are doing,” said Jose Posada, bilingual education coordinator at Los Angeles Elementary School in Koreatown. “Many of us who believed in the bilingual education program were scared about the unknowns,” he said. “Now we’re saying, ‘Well, maybe it’s not so bad. Maybe it’s time we start talking about the positives.'”

In interviews at 13 Los Angeles Unified School District campuses with large immigrant populations, primary grade teachers said their students are absorbing [oral] English at a surprising pace. Some children are even taking the next step and learning to read and write in English. …

Officials at Charles W. Barrett Elementary School in South Central Los Angeles report encouraging progress. … “Our 132 students are learning academic English faster than anticipated,” said bilingual education coordinator Jesus Romero. …

“I expected that their self-esteem would be affected, and that they would feel inhibited, give up easily,” said Yomy Duran, a second-grade teacher at Dena Elementary School southeast of downtown. “Instead, they are excited, motivated. …”

A few miles away, at First Street Elementary School, Irma Rodriguez cooed that her daughters, a kindergartner and a third-grader, “are learning to speak, which is what I always wanted. We’re all happy. …”

Until this year, most of First Street School’s 800 students learned to read and write in Spanish in kindergarten through third grade, with English phased in later. Since Proposition 227 was implemented last summer, children with limited English skills have been placed in year-long English immersion programs. …

At the start of the school year, First Street principal Judy Leff, a firm supporter of bilingual education, led a series of parent meetings aimed at ensuring that residents understood their options, including their right to seek a waiver to continue traditional bilingual instruction.

By the time classes began in September, Left said, fewer than 20 waivers had been requested. Instead, she said, the vast majority of parents chose to enroll their children in a structured English immersion program.

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