In Tuesday, the Board of Education will vote on Chancellor Harold Levy’s plan to revamp bilingual education. On one hand, it gives parents the chance to opt out of a program that has failed students for 25 years. On the other, it would pump tens of millions into that very same program.
Instead, Levy and the Board of Ed should be fighting to break free from the consent decree that has forced mandatory bilingual education on New York City schoolchildren since 1974. Its years of documented failure should provide all the justification that is necessary.
Levy’s $75 million plan would fund the recruitment and hiring of thousands more specialized teachers, while allowing an unspecified number of kids to reject bilingual ed in favor of intensive English training in separate classes during an extended school day. That option should not be an option at all. It should be what is required of all immigrant students with limited English proficiency.
There is no credible evidence that bilingual education ? in which students are taught all subjects primarily in their native languages ? works. At all. Anywhere. By not scrapping bilingual ed outright, the board will condemn generations of immigrant students to mediocrity in school ? and in life.
Consider this: A 12-year study by the National Center for Educational Statistics showed that first- and second-generation Hispanics who had been enrolled in bilingual education earned less ? 37% and 29%, respectively ? than peers who were in English-only programs. Moreover, those taught in bilingual programs were more likely to wind up in blue-collar, rather than professional, jobs.
The Board of Ed’s own studies last year and in 1994 reveal that kids fare worse with bilingual education. More than half the students enrolled fail to transfer to regular classes within the state-mandated three years. By contrast, students taught by the Board of Ed’s other method, English as a Second Language ? where youngsters learn exclusively in English ? mainstream faster and achieve test scores as much as 27% higher.
Instead of dumping a fortune into a failed program, the Board of Ed should simply dump the program ? and reinvest bilingual ed’s $46 million budget in English-only programs that give immigrant kids a real chance at success.