Bilingual Education Shows a Consistent Edge in Teaching English, According to Stanford 9 Achievement Tests
Arizona Language Education Council (
Contact:  Alejandra Sotomayor (520)
Dr. Jeff MacSwan (480)

TEMPE. -- As backers of Proposition 203 make deceptive claims about California test scores, here in Arizona there is no doubt that children who learn English in bilingual classrooms are outperforming their counterparts in English-only classrooms.

The pattern is remarkably consistent. At every grade level over the past three years, Arizona children  in bilingual education have scored higher on the Stanford 9 reading test – in English – than children learning English through “immersion” alone, according to the Arizona Department of Education.

It is widely agreed that reading ability is one of the most important predictors of academic success for all students. Thus the superiority of bilingual education in cultivating English literacy is good news for the state’s Latino and Native American students, who have often lagged behind other groups in school achievement and completion rates.

Significantly, the reading advantage for bilingual education students in Arizona increased in the upper grades. This confirms the findings of research at the national level, which has documented the long-term benefits of bilingual approaches.

“There seems to be a significant difference between these two programs in the reading achievement of children learning English, and bilingual education has the edge,” said Dr. Jeff  MacSwan of the Arizona State University College of Education. “It is all the more impressive because the data are so consistent.”

Yet, despite this record of success, Proposition 203 would dismantle virtually all bilingual education programs in the state of Arizona. In their place, it would mandate a statewide, one-year curriculum of  “structured English immersion” – regardless of the individual needs of children learning English, the advice of educators, or the desires of parents. Local school boards would also have no say in the matter – regardless of how well existing programs were working.

Under current law, parents have the right to choose between bilingual education and other educational options. But under Proposition 203, there would be virtually no choice.

“Imposing this type of one-size-fits-all approach would be a terrible mistake,” said Alejandra Sotomayor, co-chair of the Arizona Language Education Council. “English-only programs have a history of failure for Hispanic and Native American students, and the latest Stanford 9 scores confirm that. People who really care about children’s pportunity to learn English effectively should support parents’ right to choose bilingual education.”

The Arizona Language Education Council is a nonprofit association dedicated to educating the public about the historical and present context of the education of language minority children in Arizona. We are parents, teachers, business people, tribal leaders, community volunteers, and researchers. We are united by our concern for the academic success of children learning English and other languages in our state.

Using Deceptive Statistics, English-Only Proponents Ask Arizonans to Repeat California's Mistake
Arizona Language Education Council (

TEMPE -- As the saying goes, "Figures don't lie, but liars can figure." Selective use of statistics can be just as dishonest as outright fabrication of evidence.

As Exhibit A, we offer Ron Unz, the Silicon Valley millionaire who has single-handedly bankrolled Proposition 203, the initiative to outlaw bilingual education in Arizona. The measure would deny parents any choice in schooling for children learning English.

Mr. Unz, who sponsored a similar initiative adopted by Californians in 1998, is now claiming credit for "a huge rise" in the achievement test scores of immigrant children there. On this basis he hopes to convince Arizona voters to pass an even more restrictive English-only law here. His pitch sounds plausible -- until you learn the whole story.

It is true that the Stanford 9 test scores of English learners have been increasing in California over the past three years. But so have those of ALL types of students -- rich and poor, white and minority, immigrant and non-immigrant -- a fact that Mr. Unz conveniently fails to mention.

The pattern of steadily rising scores holds just as true for children from English-language backgrounds -- who were not affected by the English-only law, known as Proposition 227 -- as it does for limited-English-proficient
(LEP) children.

What's more, a new study by Stanford University researchers shows that students in bilingual classrooms are performing just as well or better on the Stanford 9 than those in English-only classrooms. About 12 percent of
LEP students in California continue to receive bilingual instruction at parents' request, down from about 30 percent before passage of Proposition 227.

The research team, led by psychologist Kenji Hakuta, randomly sampled the performance of LEP students in three different types of districts:
  - those that had never offered bilingual education;
  - those that eliminated bilingual education beginning in 1998-99; and
  - those that continued to provide substantial amounts of bilingual education after passage of Proposition 227.

It concluded that, over the past three years, Stanford 9 "scores rose for all students" in these districts. The study found "no clear pattern that could be attributable to Proposition 227." Indeed, "the rise for native English speakers from poor performing schools was dramatic and larger than for LEP students." (For more information on the study, see:

What do the rising scores signify? Researchers with no political axe to grind will cite multiple factors. In California, these include a host of simultaneous school reforms, including sharply reduced class size in the
elementary grades. Many districts, following disappointing results in 1997-98, have also devoted large amounts of time to preparing students to take the Stanford 9.

"Studies show that students always score higher each year on commercial tests," said David Berliner, Dean of the College of Education at Arizona State University. "There were gains of two points each year on the
California Achievement Test in the 1980's, and one and a half points each year on the Iowa test of Basic Skills. Annual gains nearly this high were also seen on the Stanford test. These kinds of test score increases are
likely to be a direct result of teachers knowing more about what is on the test and teaching those things better."

Of course, year-to-year, district-wide comparisons of achievement test data - which involve different students and lack controls for socioeconomic status and other variables - is a  crude way to measure program effectiveness, to say the least. The research base favoring bilingual education is much more solid.

"Controlled, scientific studies have consistently shown that children in properly organized bilingual education programs acquire English at least as well and usually better than children in all-English programs," said Stephen Krashen of the University of Southern California. This was the conclusion of a review of research on bilingual education in Arizona by Krashen and two colleagues (available at:

The Arizona Language Education Council ( is a nonprofit association dedicated to educating the public about the historical and present context of the education of language minority children in Arizona. We are parents, teachers, business people, tribal leaders, community volunteers, and researchers. We are united by our concern for the academic success of children learning English and other languages in our state.

Official Ballot Summary For Prop 203 (Anti-Bilingual Initiative) is Inaccurate And Misleading
Arizona Language Education Council (

PHOENIX -- The official ballot summary for Proposition 203, the initiative to outlaw bilingual education, is inaccurate and misleading, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled today in a lawsuit brought by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. According to the three-judge panel, the Legislative Council failed to meet its legal obligation to provide an "impartial description" of the measure, which will appear on the November 7 ballot.

The high court ordered the Council to revise the summary to remove erroneous information before voter information pamphlets are printed next week. At issue was a paragraph in the summary that "mistakes existing law," the court found, by asserting that Arizona requires bilingual education for all children learning English. In fact, state law currently gives the parents of these students a range of options to choose from. These include not only bilingual instruction but also a variety of all-English methodologies, including the "structured immersion" approach that Proposition 203 would mandate statewide.

According to the Arizona Department of Education, less than one-third of eligible children are now in bilingual classrooms. The rest receive various forms of English-only instruction. In other words, the Legislative Council got it backward. Today in Arizona there is no statewide mandate for any particular approach in teaching
students who are limited in English. School choice is a right that is already enjoyed by the parents of these children. And Proposition 203 would eliminate this right, except in very limited circumstances.

On procedural grounds, the Court left intact another paragraph of the summary that, according to MALDEF, also conveyed a false impression. The Legislative Council asserted that "Proposition 203 allows parents to apply for waivers from participation in English immersion programs" under various circumstances, without explaining that their choices would be far more restricted than under current law. For example, the initiative would absolutely prohibit bilingual instruction for English learners under age 10 -- who make up the vast majority of
students now enrolled -- unless parents could prove that a child was "physically- or mentally-impaired." What's more, schools could arbitrarily deny any parent's request for bilingual instruction "without explanation or
legal consequence."

"These so-called 'waivers' are a sham designed to fool the voters," said Alejandra Sotomayor, a party to the lawsuit and a coordinator of the Arizona Language Education Council. "Parents now have the right to choose whether they want their kids in bilingual education or not. Proposition 203 would take away their right to choose in most cases. Simple as that." The initiative is also deceptive in claiming to promote "English for the Children" while limiting English instruction to "a temporary transition period not normally intended to exceed one year." This would seriously disrupt English-as-a-second language programs, which typically last at least three years. "Research shows that most kids need much more than a year to learn English," noted Jeff MacSwan, assistant professor of education at Arizona State University.  "The problem with all-English instruction is that by the time
kids know enough English to understand the teacher they're already too far behind academically."

Indeed, bilingual education does appear to give children an important edge in student achievement. According to data reported by Arizona State Superintendent of Public Instruction, children in bilingual education consistently score significantly higher in English reading than students enrolled in English-only programs statewide.

"We're trying to get the word out that this initiative is bad for kids," said Sal Gabaldon, an administrator with Tucson Unified School District and a concerned citizen. "We hope people will believe experienced educators and the data coming out of our own state department of education over the opinion of the politically ambitious software engineer who authored the initiative."

For more information, contact Alejandra Sotomayor at 520-465-0236 or email at, or the MEXICAN AMERICAN LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATIONAL FUND in Los Angeles CA at (213) 629-2512 or Richard M. Martinez in Tucson at (520) 327-4797.

Lawsuit Filed Seeking To Block Prop 203 As Misleading
Arizona Language Education Council (

PHOENIX, AZ- Lawyers for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) went to court today to block a misleading summary of Proposition 203, the anti-bilingual initiative, from being presented to the voters. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Alejandra Sotomayor and Salvador Gabaldon, petitions the Arizona Supreme Court to reject the official analysis of Proposition 203, approved by the Legislative Council last month, because it contains inaccurate and misleading statements.

The Council is legally required to produce neutral explanations that fairly and accurately describe initiative proposals and their likely effects. "The Arizona Legislative Council has failed to perform a duty required by
law and have acted in excess of their legal authority in their description of Prop 203 which would appear in the publicity pamphlet for the November 2000 election. This summary would indeed be misleading voters as to the
meaning of Prop 203. The changes it makes and its effects if adopted would be irreparable," said Gabaldon.

The analysis incorrectly states that the existing laws in Arizona require that public schools provide unlimited bilingual education instruction to every student who is not fluent in English. Arizona revised statutes say
that school districts with ten or more Limited English Proficient (LEP) students must provide bilingual education or English as a Second Language (ESL) and that school districts with nine students or less must provide
bilingual education, ESL, or an individual education program.

Secondly, the analysis states, "Proposition 203 allows parents to apply for waivers from participation in English immersion programs if their child already knows English, is at least 10-years-old, or is a special needs
student." In actuality the initiative provides a waiver for children with special physical or psychological needs which take precedent over a child's lack of English proficiency.

The analysis also fails to describe the terms of waiver classes. According to the analysis if a waiver is granted, the student will be transferred to classes that teach English and other subjects through traditional bilingual
education instruction or other educational methods permitted by law. The initiative, however, says that schools with 20 students or more per grade who receive waivers shall be required to offer such classes. If not the
students must be allowed to transfer to a public school in which waiver classes are offered.

The analysis provided by the Arizona Legislative Council overstates the rights that parents would have under the initiative to obtain waiver programs for their children by omitting a significant limitation on the provision of waiver programs, Gabaldon said.

A similar situation in Colorado caused the Supreme Court to remove a proposed initiative to limit bilingual education off the ballot. On July 10 of this year it was ruled that the initiative failed to inform voters that
school districts would not be required to offer bilingual instruction if passed. The Rocky mountain news reported that the omission gave parents the false impression that they would have a choice between bilingual education
and one-year "English-immersion" classes in which students' native languages would be spoken sparingly. In reality, the initiative would have required most students to join mainstream classes after one year of bilingual

"Prop 203 is not just about immigrant children. This punitive proposal would dismantle Native American languages across the state. The Navajo, Tohono O'odham, Pima and Apache tribes have adopted resolutions against this initiative," said Sotomayor, "This isn't about good educational policy. It is a politically motivated proposal that disregards that fact that children in bilingual education programs do better on English standardized tests than those in English immersion."

For more information, contact Alejandra Sotomayor at 520-465-0236 or email at MEXICAN AMERICAN LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATIONAL FUND in Los Angeles CA (213) 629-2512 or Richard M. Martinez, Tucson (520) 327-4797