York Daily Record (PA)
Bilingual education helps students succeed
August 18, 2002
The Daily Record is badly misinformed about bilingual education (“Our opinion,” Aug. 4). *The Daily Record confuses bilingual education with “ESL.” ESL refers to English as a Second Language. ESL is part of quality bilingual education, but also exists apart from bilingual education. * It is not true that 90 percent of the day is in Spanish in bilingual programs. According to a study done at the University of California at Riverside, by the time children are in third grade, 75 percent of their subject matter is in English, and 90 percent is in English by fifth grade. Other research shows that even in “late-exit” programs, 50 percent of the day is in English by fifth grade.
English immersion deserves none of the credit for the increase in test scores in California. A new test was introduced at the same time Proposition 227 took effect. Test scores always go up after a new test is introduced, which is why tests need to be recalibrated after a few years. All scores have been going up in California since 1998.
Not mentioned by the Daily Record is the scientific research which consistently shows that children in well-organized bilingual education programs acquire at least as much English as children in all-English immersion programs - and usually more. The most recent review of this research was done by Dr. Jay Greene of the Manhattan Institute. Greene concluded that the use of the native language has positive effects and that “efforts to eliminate the use of the native language in instruction . . . harm children by denying them access to beneficial approaches.”
Bilingual programs use the first language in a way that accelerates English development. They do this in several ways: They provide literacy development in the first language, which is a shortcut to English literacy. It is much easier to learn to read in a language one understands, and once a child can read in the primary language, reading ability transfers rapidly to English. Bilingual programs also teach subject matter in the first language. Teaching subject matter in the first language stimulates intellectual development and provides students with valuable knowledge that will help the child understand instruction when it is presented in English. And of course bilingual programs introduce English the very first day and teach subject matter in English as soon as it can be made comprehensible.
The theory underlying bilingual education is sound and the data supporting it is strong. Stephen Krashen, Ph.D., is a professor emeritus at the University of Southern California.