California’s voters, by passing Proposition 227 three years ago, forced the state to move away from “Bilingual Education” and toward “English Immersion.” Despite many warnings from educators that children whose first language wasn’t English would suffer as a result, the voters apparently had the right idea.
The Boston Globe reported Monday that California’s educational switch has advanced academic achievement: “The 1 million or so public school pupils classified as ‘limited English speakers’ have shown respectable, sometimes striking, gains on standardized tests.”
Those gains come from the logical approach of immediately moving children – the younger, the better – into English- only classes.
Before Proposition 227 passed, bilingual education and “dual language” programs allowed students from solely Spanish-speaking homes (a significant portion of California’s public-school enrollment) to “ease” into English while spending large portions of the school day using the language they already knew – instead of learning the primary national language that they so badly need to know.
And as our Allison Bruce reports, a summit at the College of Charleston Monday focused on the importance of teaching that language not just to children who don’t now speak English, but to their parents.
There’s nothing wrong with Spanish-speaking students utilizing and enhancing their home language skills in Spanish class. Yet in other classes, for their own good, they should speak, listen, read and write in English. In other words, they should be “immersed” in English.
The predictable benefits are already being recorded in California’s rising test scores. They also are being noticed in other states. Arizona’s voters dumped bilingual education last year. A movement to put the issue on the ballot in Massachusetts is gaining ground.
Ken Noonan, superintendent of Oceanside (Calif.) School District, told the Globe that though he campaigned against Proposition 227 three years ago, his mind has been changed by undeniable evidence: “We saw (improvement) again and again. Anyone who tells me that’s not significant is spouting foolishness.”
And anyone who tries to block the immersion movement is trying to stem a rising tide of common sense.