Last week, amid a crowd of about 75 parents, teachers and students, most of whom were Hispanic, Congressman Matt Salmon endorsed an initiative to end bilingual education in Arizona.
“Bilingual education has failed in its mission to teach children English,” Salmon told the crowd. “It has denied thousands of young Americans the opportunity to fully realize the American dream.”
California’s Proposition 227, the model for the Arizona initiative, has been successful, according to the 1999 Stanford 9 test and, more recently, figures released by the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Here is what the media are reporting:
* “The evidence keeps rolling in that California’s Proposition 227, the 1998 ballot initiative that largely outlaws bilingual education, has been one of the best things to happen to the state’s immigrant students.” – Orange County Register, editorial, May 18.
* “A record number of Los Angeles Unified students learning English have achieved fluency in the first full school year since passage of Proposition 227, a ringing endorsement for proponents of the measure that ended bilingual education classes in the state.” – Los Angeles Daily News, May 17.
* “Figures released earlier this month by the 690,000-student school system (Los Angeles Unified School District) – sued recently for failure to provide adequate services to its students – show the highest annual increase in students achieving English fluency since the system began keeping data on their progress.” – Washington Times, May 18.
* “After a lost generation, Latino kids in California are finally learning, in plain English, like immigrant children a century ago. Will other states follow?” – Michael Barone, U.S. News & World Report, May 29. Superintendent of Schools Ken Noonan in Oceanside, Calif., has changed from a fierce opponent of Proposition 227 and office holder of the California bilingual education association into a vocal supporter of the initiative because of what he has observed in his district’s schools.
At a fall conference about bilingual education held in Phoenix, he explained that Hispanic students in his district used to remain separate from the other children, even on the playground, but now all the children learn and play together.
Furthermore, the May 1999 state-required Stanford 9 test showed that the student scores in Oceanside for the early grades – those most affected by the switch from bilingual – rose from the 35th percentile to the 45th in just one year.
Like California’s Proposition 227, the Arizona initiative would replace bilingual education with structural immersion. This system encourages rapid transition into mainstream classes.
Students who need assistance continue to receive it, but are taught in English and not segregated from the other students for long periods of time. Nogales Superior Court Judge Roberto C. Monteil, a former Mexican immigrant, has witnessed the problems of bilingual education in his community. He has faced people appearing in his court who stated that they had spent 12 years in the Nogales school system but still had to have Spanish translators to tell them what the judges were deciding.
A Nogales parent, Gloria Moraila, told me at Salmon’s news conference that Hispanic students were on waiting lists to get out of the Nogales bilingual schools and into the school that recently began to offer instruction exclusively in English. This corresponds to A Lot to Be Thankful For, a national study completed in 1998 by Public Agenda, an organization founded by social scientist Daniel Yankelovich and former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. Their data indicate that 66 percent of Hispanic parents prefer that their children be taught English as quickly as possible, even if this means that the students fall behind in other subjects. The parents believe that the children can catch up later on.
Unfortunately, bilingual professors, administrators and teachers have pursued careers dependent on bilingual education and will fight to the nth degree to keep it afloat. They create bogus research and distort facts to convince the public that bilingual education works.
Congressman Salmon is right to support the initiative that has the potential to outlaw bilingual education in Arizona.