RESOLUTION OF THE
SOCIETY OF AMERICA
Resolution: In opposition to the Unz/Tuchman California Ballot
Initiative: 'English Language Education for Immigrant Children'
Whereas the Linguistic Society of America has already expressed its
opposition to the restrictive nature of the 'English Only' movement; and
the Society clearly addresses in its 'Statement of Language Rights'
(Section 10.D) the right of residents of the United States:
their children educated in a manner that affirmatively acknowledges
their native language abilities as well as ensures their acquisition of
the proposed amendment to Section 1 Chapter 3 of the Educational Code of
California entitled 'English Language Education for Immigrant Children'
would effectively deny these language rights;
resolved that the Society make known its opposition to the proposed
January 1998 by the members of the Linguistic Society of America
attending the 1998 Annual Meeting at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York,
Linguistic Society of America was founded in 1924 to advance the
scientific study of language. The Society's present membership of
approximately 7000 people and institutions includes a great proportion
of the leading experts on language in the United States, as well as many
from abroad. Many of the Society's members have experience with, or
expertise in, bilingualism and multilingualism. Despite increasing
interest in these topics, public debate is all too often based on
misconceptions about language. In June 1996, the Society published a
general 'Statement on Language Rights' that was intended to address some
of these misconceptions and urge the protection of basic language
January 1998 "Resolution in Opposition to the Unz/Tuchman California
Ballot Initiative 'English Language Education for Immigrant Children'"
follows directly from our position on language rights. In this addendum
to the January 1998 Resolution, we would like to comment specifically on
a number of the misconceptions in the Unz/Tuchman Initiative and draw
attention to numerous references in the literature that provide
substantive, evidence-based treatments of these issues.
Unz/Tuchman Initiative resolves that "all children in California public
school shall be taught English as rapidly and effectively as possible,"
their plan for implementation, in fact, seriously undermines such a
Unz/Tuchman Initiative proposes that:
children in California public schools shall be taught English by being
taught in English" in strictly English language classrooms.
The Unz/Tuchman Initiative is proposing to abandon successful programs
in bilingual education for a system that has long been recognized as
Bilingual Education Act was signed into law (2 January 1968), limited
English proficient (LEP) students--unable to understand their teachers
in English-only classrooms--were falling behind in their academic
studies and dropping out of school at alarming rates. In California, for
example, half of all Mexican-American youth, ages 18-24, failed to
complete the 8th grade. (National Association for Bilingual Education
Education Act was further supported by the Supreme Court's 1974 ruling
in Lau v. Nichols, where the court found San Francisco's failure to
provide adequate English instruction to 1800 Chinese-speaking students
discriminatory and illegal.
recently, two years ago, the California legislature deregulated
bilingual education programs throughout the state. This gives schools
and school districts the right to choose the kinds of programs that
would be most effective for their LEP students and ensures local
community input for vital educational decisions. The "one size fits all"
Unz/Tuchman Initiative would restrict these options.
The right to
an appropriate education has had a major positive impact on LEP
children's success. In fact, thirty years later, rising test scores,
increased college attendance, and brighter career paths testify to the
fact that bilingual education has made a difference for LEP students. As
Crawford and others point out, a growing body of research evidence shows
that well-designed bilingual programs are academically
effective--without holding back students' acquisition of English
(Crawford 1995; Genesee 1987; Cummins 1984, 1988). A bilingual program
of particular proven merit is the "Two-Way Bilingual Education" or "Dual
Bilingual Education or Dual Immersion--LEP and native English-speaking
students aquire each other's languages in a developmental bilingual
education environment that features collaborative learning and a
challenging curriculum. Thegoal is to help both groups meet high
academic standards and develop fluent bilingualism and full literacy in
two languages. Students are typically enrolled in these programs for
five or more years. [Crawford, 1997]
"children who are English learners shall be educated through sheltered
immersion during a temporary transition period not normally intended to
exceed one year."
This time span is
equivalent to only 180 classroom days. According to Unz/Tuchman,
"'Sheltered English immersion' or 'structured English immersion' means
an English language acquisition process for young children in which
nearly all classroom instruction is in English but with the curriculum
and presentation designed for children who are learning the language."
This one year plan follows from the Unz/Tuchman assumption that "young
immigrant children can easily acquire full fluency in a new language,
such as English, if they are heavily exposed to that language in the
classroom at an early age." No research findings reported to date
support the claim that second language fluency can be achieved by these
children in a single year using a curriculum that "dumbs down" the
language level and content to accommodate the fact that English is being
spoken to students who cannot understand it. In a large-scale,
longitudinal study of 2000 Spanish-speaking children (in nine school
districts in California, Florida, New Jersey, New York, and Texas) that
focused upon structured English immersion as well as early-exit and
late-exit bilingual education programs for language-minority children,
Ramirez, Yuen, Ramey, and Pasta (1991) reported the following statistics
on the time span required for LEP students in structured English
immersion programs to be reclassified as "fluent iEnglish," particularly
academic English, or the English competency needed to understand
Even early exit
from a bilingual program is problematic. The same study by Ramirez, et
al. showed that while student achievement in structured immersion,
early-exit, and late-exit programs showed little initial differences in
reading language and math, only the late-exit bilingual students
approximated the scores of their native English speaking peers by the
6th grade. In contrast, students who had participated in structured
immersion or early-exit bilingual programs leveled off far below the
national norms. Crawford (1995:151) quotes Ramirez's summary of the
implications of his study:
instructional objective is to help kids stay where they are--around the
25th percentile--then give them immersion or early exit and they'll keep
their place in society. If your concern is to help kids catch up to the
norming population, use more primary language. In the late-exit, they're
growing faster in content areas and in English, too. It's really clear
that you will not slow down a child's acquisition of English by
providing large amounts of native-language acquisition."
that one year is an inappropriate cut-off point is not limited to
advocates of bilingual education. The heavily antibilingual education
'Little Hoover Commission Report' (1993) notes that "some experts
believe that English can be academically comprehensible in as little as
two years..., while others believe that six or more years of assistance
is necessary" (Krashen, 1997a). The average consensus places the time
span at 3-5 years, well beyond the Unz/Tuchman one year limit.
schools shall be permitted to place in the same classroom English
learners of different ages but whose degree of English proficiency is
By placing children of different ages in the same classroom the
possibility of adequately exposing these students to grade-level
appropriate academic content areas is sacrificed. The math and science
topics to be mastered by a six and twelve year old are clearly not
comparable. So LEP students are not only being communicated with in a
form of English and treatment of content areas modified for use with
nonnative speaking children, they are also being lumped together by
English nonproficiency irrespective of age or grade level. Under such
conditions, age appropriate/grade-level appropriate academic content
cannot be provided. The Ramirez (1991) et al. study emphasized that
programs that stressed native-language development while introducing
English gradually into the curriculum produced far better academic
outcomes that those that pushed students into English too quickly.
(1997) points out that bilingual education is based upon three simple
premises: (1) Knowledge is more easily acquired if a teacher
communicates with a student in a language that the student understands.
(2) Concepts and academic content learned through a student's native
language don't need to be relearned in English. (3) Language skills such
as literacy, like concepts and academic content, need to be learned only
once. There is no justification for putting acquisition of knowledge on
hold while a student who already has perfectly good mastery of a first
language learns a second. Cognitive development in general, like
language, is subject to maturational constraints (Lenneberg 1967,
Newport 1990). The earlier certain concepts and methods of problem
solving are learned, the better equipped a child is to assimilate that
knowledge and to use those concepts as stepping stones to further
development. Delaying nonlanguage aspects of the educational curriculum
of children until they master a secondanguage simply serves to place
them at a greater disadvantage.
schools shall be encouraged to mix together in the same classroom
English learners from different native-language groups but with the same
degree of English fluency."
The combination of grouping students without regard to age or native
language is particularly troubling. Such measures advocate the
warehousing of immigrant children in academically unstructured and
linguistically impoverished classrooms. Under the Unz/Tuchman model, the
only rich, native-language English models a child will be exposed to are
the classroom teachers, who unfortunately will be modifying their
English to communicate with a range of child speakers of a number of
mutually unintelligible native languages, most likely unfamiliar to the
Unz/Tuchman Initiative as currently worded, immigrant children will
actually be segregated from native-English speaking peers during the
most crucial aspects of their second language learning process. Research
on language acquisition has repeatedly demonstrated that children do not
in fact learn languages primarily from adults, but rather from slightly
older peers (Labov, 1974; Ochs, 1988). This is evidenced by the fact
that children generally exhibit the dialect of the area in which they
are raised as opposed to that of their parents. By segregating immigrant
children into classes with other nonnative speakers with equal English
language nonproficiency, the Unz/Tuchman plan removes from the
acquisition formula one of its most important components, exposure to
native speaking peers. Contrary to its characterization in the
Unz/Tuchman document, bilingual education is not nearly as
education does not mean isolating children in native-language classrooms
with little or no exposure to English. These programs teach English from
day one. Typically, English is first used to teach subjects that are
less linguistically demanding such as art, music, and physical
English is integrated into subjects that are more dependent on language,
from math to science to social studies "(Crawford 1997).
English learners have acquired a good working knowledge of English, they
shall be transferred to English language mainstream classrooms."
According to Unz/Tuchman, "'English language mainstream classroom means
a classroom in which the students are native English speakers or already
have acquired reasonable fluency in English."
Linguistic research warns us that sheltered English immersion is a
formula that impedes native-like acquisition of standard English.
Furthermore, Ramirez et al.'s (1991) study reports that only 4% of
students in structured English immersion programs are reclassified as
sufficiently fluent after one year. Therefore, we must conclude that the
Unz/Tuchman plan, contrary to its intended goals, will fail to produce a
sizeable cohort of sufficiently fluent English language learners by
their one year deadline. Yet, the entire Initiative hangs on the flawed
assumption that after a single year, students in sheltered English
classrooms will attain sufficient fluency to enter into mainstream
classrooms with native-English speaking peers. Instead, all indications
are that a large majority (as much as 96%) of these immigrant children
will not achieve fluency within one year. Under the Unz/Tuchman
Initiative, there exists no coherent next step.
possibilities present themselves: (1) The great majority of these
immigrant children will be shunted back into inappropriate age and
language-matched sheltered English classrooms that have no plan for
furthering their academic and language development. (2) Criteria for
entry into mainstream classrooms could possibly be relaxed such that
these ill-equipped students are allowed to enter and in so doing would
overwhelm already overburdened classroom teachers as well as lower the
general achievement possible within the class. (3) These students,
doomed to failure by what linguistic and educational research indicates
to be inadequate preparation, will be inappropriately classified as
having "special physical, emotional, psychological, or educational needs
[such] that an alternate course of educational study would be better
suited to the child's overall educational development," i.e. shunting
them (and the financial burden for their education) into a stigmatized,
special education track that may or may n offer bilingual education as
an option. The third alternative was opted for and found to be illegal
in the case of children who were speakers of AAVE (African American
Vernacular English) in Ann Arbor, Michigan (Labov, 1982; Smitherman,
much as possible, current supplemental funding for English learners
shall be maintained,..." However, these funds will be diverted "for the
purpose of providing additional funding for free or subsidized programs
of adult English language instruction to parents or other members of the
community who pledge to provide personal English language tutoring to
California school children with limited proficiency."
While couched in terms of maintaining current levels of supplemental
funding, this provision of the Unz/Tuchman Initiative would, in fact,
strip $500,000,000 from the general educational fund that currently
supports professional bilingual education programs and divert it to
poorly conceived adult literacy programs designed to put English
tutoring into the hands of untrained persons who are themselves still
struggling with English.
English, the Unz/Tuchman Initiative as currently worded proposes to (1)
dismantle currently existing and effective programs of bilingual
education, whose curriculum is based upon proven methods and solid
research findings and which are supported by both United States and
California laws as well as by the Supreme Court's Lau v. Nichols'
ruling, in favor of (2) a one year, simplified English-Only program that
(3) segregates "English learners" from their native English-speaking
peers and (4) warehouses them in classrooms mixed with respect to both
age and first language background. This warehousing method virtually
assures ineffective teaching and unsuccessful language acquisition by
precluding most second language teaching methods that take into account
the learner's first language base as well as any consistent use of
age-related materials or content matter. While at times mixed native
language classrooms may be unavoidable, they are not ideal.
Initiative would create a macaronic environment (or language jumble)
where the only native-English model will be the teacher(s) who are
extemporaneously simplifying their "structured/sheltered English" to
communicate with non-English speakers of a variety of mutually
unintelligible native languages, producing "foreigner talk" as opposed
to a consistent native-English language model. These are not the
conditions under which successful second language acquisition of English
is normally achieved. This warehousing of limited proficiency English
learners will potentially be supplemented by the diversion of funds
currently supporting viable, professionally-staffed bilingual programs
to (6) community-based tutoring programs where parents and other
community members who pledge to tutor children with limited English
proficiency will be taught to teach English. The few successful children
(those determined to have acquired "reasonable fluency in English")
would then be (5) placed in mainstream classrooms. Of course, having
lost a year of academic content, these successful students would
inevitably begin at least a year behind their peers or at a serious
academic disadvantage in an age-matched classroom. Oddly enough, the
wording of this initiative also indicates that, without significant
parental intervention, even those nonnative, but proficient English
learners will be obligated to spend a year being set back in these
segregated, sheltered/structured English classrooms. Thus the
Unz/Tuchman Initiative, as currently worded, places all immigrant
children at risk of a minimum one year academic set-back and potentially
a spiralling downhill deprivation from age-appropriate academic content
for as long as they remain inadequately prepared for entry intmainstream
Unz/Tuchman "English Language for Immigrant Children" Initiative as
currently worded is blatantly discriminatory. Under the current wording
of the Unz/Tuchman Initiative, nonimmigrant children scoring at or above
the state average for their grade level are automatically mainstreamed,
whereas an immigrant child with comparable test scores would be
automatically excluded from a mainstream English classroom and placed in
a sheltered English classroom. Under the Unz/Tuchman plan, the onus is
placed entirely on the immigrant parents of a child who is actually
qualified to be palced directly in a mainstream English classroom as
opposed to a sheltered English classroom to know and assert their rights
in these matters. It is likely that many of these immigrant parents will
themselves be LEP speakers and will be hindered from setting up meetings
with school officials and filing waivers with regard to either
mainstream classrooms or bilingual education classrooms. Under current
California law, alparents have the absolute right to withdraw their
children from any English language development program. By substituting
stricter waiver procedures, the Unz/Tuchman Initiative would remove this
But what becomes
of the immigrant children who have not achieved English proficiency in a
year? It is not clear. It seems that without parental intervention,
children under 10 will remain in these segregated, warehousing,
structured English classrooms designed only for one year training--in
violation of the original intent of the Initiative. The only alternative
option open to the parents is to have their child classified for special
education, which is not an acceptable option (Labov, 1982; Smitherman,
1981). Such an alternative not only stigmatizes these immigrant
children, but shifts the burden of their education to the already
limited budget lines dedicated to programs currently serving the needs
of children with actual learning disabilities. This inappropriately
turns bilingual education, which actually offers children a cognitive
advantage (Grosjean 1982; Lambert & Tucker 1972; Cummins 1977, 1978,
1984, 1988), into special education, which does not.
children actually waived out of this program, the Unz/Tuchman Initiative
stipulates that these "children may be transferred to classes where they
are taught English and other subjects through bilingual education
techniques or other generally recognized educational methodologies
permitted by law. Individual schools in which 20 students or more of a
given grade level receive a waiver shall be required to offer such a
class; otherwise, they must allow the students to transfer to a public
school in which such a class is offered." This policy promises to
encourage the extreme rationing of such waivers and virtually assures
schools in areas with limited diversity the possibility of shipping
immigrant children out, at the immigrant family's inconvenience, to more
accepting school districts. Segregation from rather that integration
into the native-English speaking educational mainstream seems the most
likely outcome of the Unz/Tuchman plan.
Linguistic Society of America shares the intent of the Unz/Tuchman
Initiative, to give access to spoken and written English to all of
California's children, the methods the Initiative suggests are
linguistically ill-informed, educationally unsound, and would be illegal
if ever put into practice. California's children deserve better.
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Prepared by the
Committee on Social and Political Concerns of the Linguistic Society of
updated June 10,