State officials from Gov. Pete Wilson on down said the real value of the new statewide testing system would be to help determine what works and what doesn’t in the classroom.

But what happens when those answers aren’t politically correct? The question becomes relevant in the wake of results from San Francisco and San Jose schools. In both districts, graduates of bilingual education programs scored better than native English speakers in most subjects and at most grade levels.

Saying bilingual education actually can work is no longer politically correct in California. Voters, the ultimate arbiters of political correctness, delivered that verdict last month when they approved Proposition 227, which would substitute English immersion classes for bilingual teaching.

One year’s results from two big cities hardly provide a definitive answer on bilingual education. But things will get interesting if evidence accumulates about bilingual education’s successes, or, conversely, about lower scores by students in English immersion classes.

That’s the danger of imposing a political agenda — from the left or the right — on how schools should teach. What matters is what works. And we’re still trying to figure that out.

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