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Pazmino v. Calif. State Board of Education
Settlement Agreement require the State defendants to: fund alternative bilingual programs   

Report Bilingual classes better than English-only approach

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Sent to the Arizona Republic, Dec. 7, 2002
Duke Beattie’s letter (“End the ‘language welfare,’ “ Dec. 7) shows a poor understanding of bilingual education. Learning English is a priority in such programs because American immigrants want their children to learn English. Quality bilingual education programs teach English from day one.

Math, science and social studies are taught in English and in the child’s native language. Does bilingual education help teach English faster and more effectively than English-only instruction? Check last year’s Stanford 9 scores for English learners in the elementary grades, where most bilingual education programs are found. While the majority of the state is now using English-only instruction to educate English learners (as it always has), most Tucson parents have demanded waivers allowing their children to acquire English using bilingual education. As a result, Tucson’s English learners match or exceed the English learner state average in English tests of reading, language and math. Our parents support bilingual education because, as America’s corporations have already figured out, strong English skills combined with strong Spanish skills produce greater opportunities. If Mr. Beatti wants to limit his own children to a monolingual life, that’s his choice.

Sal Gabaldón


Sent to the Christian Science Monitor, December 3, 2002

“Bilingual education is bad because English is important” is an invalid argument.

John Hewko opposes bilingual education so we can “Keep the US English speaking”  (December 3, 2002). Mr. Hewko is an accomplished scholar,  currently a Visiting Scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for  International Peace. He should know that a central goal of bilingual
education is English language development. He should also know that  study after study has shown that bilingual education meets this goal:
Students in bilingual programs often do better than those in  English-only programs on tests of English. At worst, they do just as
well. This information has appeared very often in the professional  literature, and is immediately available when one types in “bilingual
education” on any search engine. Mr. Hewko is free to disagree with  the results of this research, but he cannot ignore it.

Stephen Krashen, Ph.D.
Emeritus Professor


Published in The Arizona Republic Dec. 2, 2002 http://www.arizonarepublic.com/opinions/articles/1202monlet024.html

Bilingual ed letter flawed

Johanna Haver’s letter on bilingual education is not supported by all the research available on the subject (“Bad news for bilingual ed
fans,” Nov. 25).

She’s basing her views on one or two flawed research studies that fit those views.

Bilingual education, in fact, has held up to high scrutiny when evaluated on the basis of properly defined bilingual education
programs. Haver gives the false impression that the academic community supports immersion, even though the academic research is
solidly in favor of bilingual education.

So she’s wrong on two counts: Not only does the academic community support bilingual education, but the academic research supports those who support bilingual education.

-Gabie Gedlaman


Sent to the Rocky Mountain News, November 27, 2002

Joe Chavez (“It is Latino students who will pay price,” letters, Nov. 25) may be surprised to know that studies show
bilingual education students drop out less than those in all-English programs. Many use the word “bilingual” for the ills
encountered in our society. Chavez mentions in his letter the “Hispanic leaders” have misled their community. I argue that
many non Hispanic leaders have tried to keep the growing Hispanic community down, while always celebrating their

Chavez writes: “Now, here is the challenge to the bilingual bureaucrats: put up or shut up.” The California Dept. of
Education states that 1,034,073 English immersed students (2 to 11 grades only) have failed to become mainstreamed after
more than one year of Chavez desired law. English immersion has shown a 93% failure rate in California after five years.

“Bilingual bureaucrats” is a better phrase than some which bilingual educators have been called in the past. Ron Unz has
called us everything from “vampires” to “educational terrorist”. Now it is time for the “English for the Children” movement
to shut up. Please stop promoting a failed system of English which pushes students to drop out to our community without
language nor academic skills.

Denis O’Leary

Sent to the Mercury News, November 24, 2002

Ricardo Pimentel claimed that the facts favor bilingual education  (Opinion, Nov. 20). Ron Unz (letters, Nov 24) responded by
characterizing Pimental’s column as “ignorant” and accuses Pimental  of not “explaining” the facts.

Here are the facts, Ron: When bilingual and English-only are compared  in scientific studies, children in bilingual education often acquire  English faster; at worst, they do just as well. Nearly every scholar who has reviewed the research holds this view. The most recent review was done by Jay Greene, who used more precise statistical tools than previous scholars. Greene concluded that “efforts to eliminate the use of the native language in instruction ... harm children by denying them access to beneficial approaches.” The efficacy of bilingual education was confirmed in the latest major study: D. K. Oller and R. Eilers’ exhaustive report, Language and Literacy in Bilingual Children, showed that children in bilingual programs in
Miami were equal to immersion children in English after five years, and much better in their native language.

Unz claims that test scores have doubled for English learners in California since Prop. 227 passed, but have not changed in districts that kept bilingual education. False. Stanford researcher Kenji Hakuta has reported that scores increased in districts that kept bilingual education, thanks to waivers. They also increased in districts that never did bilingual education. This shows that Prop. 227 deserves no credit for test score increases in California.

As usual, Unz substitutes insults for hard facts.

Stephen Krashen, Ph.D.
Emeitus Professor of Education
University of Southern California

Published in the Rocky Mountain News, November 21, 2002 http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/opinion/article/0,1299,DRMN_38_1558822,00.html

Columnist has it all wrong about 31

I may not represent the typical voter who voted against Amendment 31, but in my case, at least, News columnist Mike Rosen has it all wrong (“Amendment 31: Round 2,” Nov. 8).

The problem with the amendment was not the concept of English immersion, but how that was to be implemented. The first strike
against the amendment was that it required a change to the state Constitution. Education reforms such as this are not constitutional issues.

Its second fault lay in the fact that it eliminated choice. Not all students learn the same way, and both teachers and parents still need to have a choice in how children are taught and how they learn.

Finally, the imposition of legal liability for using alternate teaching methods is ridiculous. Since when do we seek to punish those selfless people who strive to educate our children?

James W. Mulholland

Published in the Rocky Mountain News, November 21, 2002

31’s foes must now shore up bilingual ed

I would like to thank the many people who worked so hard to defeat Amendment 31 and voted to keep the bilingual option for children in Colorado, and to keep punitive provisions aimed at teachers out of our Constitution.

Although we can all be proud of having rejected Amendment 31, much work remains to be done on this issue. For example, we need to ensure that existing bilingual programs are strengthened and improved, and that viable and effective options are offered for parents who believe that immersion would work for their children.

David Russi

Sent to the Indianapolis Star, November 19, 2002

Re: Bilingual ed moving toward extinction (Nov. 16)

The Indianapolis Star is badly uninformed. The scientific research is very supportive of bilingual education.

Study after study shows that children in bilingual programs acquire English very well equaling or exceeding those in all-English
programs. Nearly every scholar who has reviewed the research has agreed with this conclusion. The most recent review of this
research, by Jay Greene of the Manhattan Institute, found that 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.”

Dismantling bilingual education does not deserve credit for rising test scores in California; scores increased in districts that kept
bilingual education, because of waivers, as well as in districts that never did bilingual education.

Students do not “languish” in bilingual programs for years: Most who start in kindergarten acquire enough English to do
regular classwork in the mainstream in less than three years.

Children in bilingual programs drop out less, not more, than those in Engish-only programs.

There is no evidence that graduates of bilingual education earn less than those who did English-only. The study that claimed
this was so defined bilingual education as excluding all English instruction. All well-organized bilingual programs introduce
English on the first day and teach academic subject matter in English as soon as it can be made comprehensible.

I urge the Star to review the scientific research carefully, and not to rely only on press releases from organizations hostile to
bilingual education.

Stephen Krashen, Ph.D.
Emeitus Professor of Education
University of Southern California

Published in the Denver Post November 17, 2002.

A stormy season for Latinos

This year’s political season for Latinos was a particularly stormy one. For decades individuals have forecasted a brighter future for Latinos, but in reality, it has been quite gloomy.

The two ballot issues involving the elimination of bilingual education and the creation of a Cesar Chavez holiday are excellent indicators of the progress Latinos have made within the American society. These ballot issues were not just legal words, but a vote on how Colorado views Latinos.

The votes against bilingual education and the Cesar Chavez holiday reflect an attitude toward Latinos that few wish to confront. This was
especially evident during the recent immigration debates. This year’s election has challenged the illusions of Latino progress and highlighted
the great extent of the anti-Latino sentiment that continues to run rampant in America. The Latino community must honestly interpret the
election results - and realize that being complacent in the struggle for equality will never bring about significant change.


Published in the Rocky Mountain News November 15, 2002


Rosen’s not listening: Voters rejected 31

It’s well-known that Mike Rosen is not a good listener. He regularly slams the phone down on his talk-show callers and, as
usual, he is turning a deaf ear to the facts involving Amendment 31 (“Amendment 31: Round 2,” Nov. 8).

He’s not listening to the Colorado voters - they rejected Amendment 31. He wants to take it to the state legislature anyway.

He’s not listening to the parents who prefer local control and choice for their own children. He’d rather put it all in the hands of
the government.

And, most important, he’s not listening to the facts about bilingual education. The goal of bilingual education is to teach English.
Studies show that students who have had bilingual education are less likely to drop out than those who did all-English programs
and they usually acquire English better than those in immersion programs. Mike Rosen would rather follow in the footsteps of
California where Proposition 227 has failed to come anywhere near meeting the expectations of the voters who passed it.

Mike Rosen might not be listening, but I am grateful that Colorado voters tuned in to students, parents and teachers across the
state when they soundly rejected Amendment 31.

Shelley Flanagan

Sent to the Boston Globe November 2, 2002
Subject: “Dozens of dialects, English the goal” (Boston Globe, 10/31/02)

In “Dozens of dialects, English the goal” (Boston Globe, 10/31/02), reporter Megan Tench presented the the arguments for and against Question-2, as if they were of equal legitimacy. This is misleading and suggests that the issue boils down to a matter of trade-offs. As a immigrant entering this country as a third grader, I was deeply moved by Elena Shpilevoy’s description of her two years of isolation as she
struggled to learn enough English to both engage the curriculum and make friends. I found statements of endorsers Coin and Carlin glib, self-serving and unpersuasive—especially since their confidence is predicated on the assumption that the problem is speaking a foreign language, rather than using that language as an asset for acquiring academic English. The medical tenet, “first, do no harm,” seems appropriate here. Yet, I fear that too many Massachusetts voters will slip on this snake oil on Tuesday and plunge the state into the bad-old-days of English immersion, which denied so many of their parents and grandparents a high school diploma.

Later in the article, Ms. Tench cites findings from Harvard’s Immigration Project indicating that 90 percent of families wanted their children to learn English. This is comes as no surprise to anyone engaged in building children’s literacy skills in two languages (i.e,, the essence of bi-lingual education). Consequently, the abrupt leap into chiding bilingual advocates, as if we had somehow forgotten this, was
both unnecessary and unfair. We might add that results of a recent AOL Time Warner Foundation study of 6000 US adults found a whopping 95 percent support for bilingual education among Latino respondents.

Despite years of empirical research examining the efficacy of various second-language acquisition models, proponents of Question-2 are fond of linking “bilingual education” to the word “failed” in their literature and public statements. Asked for proof of their claims for structured immersion, they produce vague anecdotes, spurious counter-charges or statistics telling half (or less) of the story. They are at a loss to
explain how 80 percent of the students enrolled in Boston classrooms using this “failed experiment” transition into mainstream classrooms within three-years—at three times the annual rate of California students floundering in English-only classrooms since 1998.

Recently, Question-2 supporters have discovered disparities in the resources, teacher qualifications and general classroom conditions challenging effective bilingual instruction. Ah-ha, they say, all the more reason to scrap these “failed experiments.” But no advocate for bilingual instruction has ever claimed that these programs were immune to the problems plaguing mainstream classrooms in urban school districts. Our bilingual students are also challenged by learning disabilities, emotional problems and family situations resulting in lost class days. We do the best we can in a climate of shrinking revenues and rising political hostility toward immigrant families. Using the illogic of Unz-Tamayo, should we perhaps consider scrapping courses in history and trigonometry?

Berta Berriz
Jamaica Plain, MA.

Published in the Rocky Mountain News November 1, 2002

English immersion would be bad policy

I’m willing to believe that English immersion is a great way for a certain portion of students to learn English, but Amendment 31 is
a perfect example of a good idea wrapped in a poorly-written policy. As a result, I can’t vote for it.

Were the amendment to mandate the addition of immersion to the current curriculum, I would have no problem supporting it.
Unfortunately, the amendment mandates the elimination of all other programs, some of which work best for some students. Plus,
I don’t believe curriculum should be dictated by the state Constitution.

The killer, however, is the outright malicious penalties written into the amendment. Teachers are already this state’s favorite
scapegoats, and the addition of the measure’s harsh penalties is completely unacceptable.

Had the pro-31 team put forth an amendment that just added immersion as a choice, it would have my vote. Because it goes
way too far, I cannot support it.

Jim Burness

Sent to the Wall Street Journal, October 31, 2002

To the editor:

Re: Hable Usted Ingles? (October 31)

Wealthy Anglophone Ron Unz has personally bankrolled anti-bilingual education campaigns in four states. He now
accuses Pat Stryker of using her money to “drown out the concerns of poor Hispanics,” referring to her as an
”Anglophone billionaire heiress” and “Mrs. Moneybags,” because she donated a large sum of money to the effort to
defeat an Unz-sponsored initiative in Colorado.

In addition to this being an obvious case of the pot calling the kettle black, Unz’ accusation ignores the fact that
63% of Hispanic voters in California voted against dismantling bilingual education, and a number of studies have
shown that parents of children in bilingual education understand and support it.

Stephen Krashen, Ph.D.
Emeritus Professor
University of Southern California

Sent to the Bay State Banner (Massachusetts) October 28, 2002

Dear Editor:

I am writing in response your October 24 2002 editorial on the ballot questions. In particular, I am concerned about
your remarks on Question-2: “A compromise between the two systems [bilingual versus English-immersion instruction]
seems promising.” This observation is misleading suggesting that the crux of the matter is a disagreement over two
legitimate approaches to teaching practice. As a longtime community activist and student of public policy, let me
assure you and your readers that no such equivalence exists.

Question-2, a.k.a. the “Unz Initiative,” is the brainchild of Ron Unz, a man who believes that cultural assimilation is
the only road to success for people of color in this country; and that the main barrier to assimilation is our stubborn
insistence on remembering (and honoring) our histories, cultures and, yes, languages. Unz, a white Silicon Valley
millionaire with no children, no background in teaching, no proficiency in any language but English, and no direct
experience with the conditions and challenges facing immigrants, has bankrolled a national crusade against bilingual
education. However, beneath its rhetorical concern for the children, the Unz Initiative is a racist, anti-immigrant and
thoroughly undemocratic assault on English-language learners.

Let me explain why this is so—and why African American voters, in particular, must reject this simplistic and
destructive proposal.

The hidden public policy question is whether a child has the right to learn in a language s-he understands, while also
developing their proficiency in English? We must appreciate how the apparent “normalcy” of English-language
acquisition among native-born Americans ignores the significant distinction between casual, “playground,” English
and the language of the classroom, of the MCAS and the SATs. The English-immersion strategy doesn’t comprehend
this distinction. At stake are proven teaching practices that will recognize and use a student’s cultural assets as the
foundation for developing new academic competencies.

We also need to be aware of how racism and anti-immigrant assumptions drive the demands for cultural assimilation
and English-only instruction. History instructs that, along with their liberty, enslaved Africans were purposely deprived
of their languages, cultures and opportunities for learning. And, since language is a key aspect of cultural identity, its
destruction served as an effective means of enforcing our subordinated status for generations.

Finally, we must recognize the fundamentally undemocratic character of the electoral process, which actively
encourages a “tyranny of the majority” imposing the will of white, middleclass suburbanites (lacking any direct
knowledge of the issue) on a minority denied any real voice in the matter. We’ve all been there before.

There is no question of a compromise here. To even consider supporting Question-2 requires African Americans in
Boston to turn their backs on our Ancestors. I encourage my black sisters and brothers to support our brown and yellow
cousins by voting “no” on Question-2.

Ty dePass, co-chair,
Education Committee for the District-7 Roundtable

Published in the Denver Post, October 27, 2002 


Ill-conceived, rigid, Draconian

Amendment 31 is ill-conceived policy. Because it is, we - the board of the Public Education & Business Coalition, a partnership of leaders from business and education whose mission is to cultivate excellence in public schools - urge voters to say “no” to 31.

Business has a vested interest in all students learning English quickly and well, but Amendment 31 will create many more problems than it will solve because of two fatal flaws.

First, it imposes a rigid requirement that no student may be given help in learning English for more than a single school year. It thus prescribes a “one-size-fits-all” policy that unfairly treats all children as if they were equally adept at learning a new language.

Second, it allows a parent to sue an educator who agrees to the parent’s request for a waiver from the requirement that students spend no more than nine months learning English. The absurdity of penalizing educators for doing precisely what a parent asks them to do is compounded by Draconian penalties, including a ban on teaching or holding office for five years. Worse yet, Amendment 31 prohibits educators from carrying insurance to protect themselves.

Ask yourself: Who will choose to be a teacher, principal, superintendent or school board member if the person’s career and even personal life may be ruined by a lawsuit that Amendment 31 not only permits, but also denies him or her the financial ability to defend against?

We rarely take a stand on election issues, but because this amendment is so destructive, we urge Coloradans to vote “no” on Amendment 31. It’s bad for business, bad for schools and bad for children.

GEORGE SPARKS, Chair, Board of Directors

Public Education & Business Coalition


Sent to the New York Times, October 27, 2002
Re: The problem with bilingual education (letter, October 27)

Ron Unz incorrectly claims that California test scores increased because of Prop 227, which dismantled bilingual education. Scores have increased for all students in California since 227 passed, including districts that kept bilingual education because of waivers, and districts that never did bilingual education.

Unz claims that bilingual ed has failed in Texas because fewer than half of the immigrant children are tested in English after four years. What counts is how children in bilingual education perform compared to children in other programs. Research shows that children in bilingual programs acquire English as least as quickly as children in all-English programs.

Unz falsely asserts that theory calls for five to seven years of schooling mostly in the first language. According to current bilingual education theory (and practice) English is introduced the first day in the form of ESL classes. Academic subjects are taught in English as soon as they can made comprehensible. Most children who begin bilingual education at kindergarten acquire enough English to do regular classwork in English in three years or less.

Stephen Krashen, Ph.D.
Emeritus Professor

Sent to the Denver Post October 25, 2002

Dear Editor:

Of all of the recent letters and editorials about Amendment 31 and Bilingual Education, I found Kenneth Noonan’s to be the most offensive, and inaccurate.

Mr. Noonan states that bilingual programs teach “almost exclusively” in non-English languages for three years. Maybe in California, not in Colorado.

Every district and school in Colorado with a bilingual program begins teaching English on the first day of school, and increases the amount of English taught every year. There are NO Spanish only schools in Colorado.

Further, after three years in Colorado schools, 54% of all second language learners (no matter what program they have been in) have become proficient in English.

This is much better than in Mr. Noonan’s own school district in California. There, after four years of English Immersion, 99% of the limited English proficient students are still classified as limited in English. Funny, Mr. Noonan didn’t mention in his article that second language learners in his district in California are behind Colorado children in their acquisition of English.

Finally, Mr. Noonan states that bilingual education is a cause for the high Hispanic drop-out rate. This could not possibly be true. In 2000-2001 there were 159,600 Hispanic students in Colorado schools. During that same year, there were 19,391 Spanish speaking Hispanics in some form of bilingual education. The vast majority of Hispanics in Colorado are: 1) English speaking and 2) Have never been in bilingual education. Bilingual education is not the cause of the Hispanic drop-out rate. It may, though, be one of the cures.

Being from California, I guess we could not expect Mr. Noonan to know about Colorado schools, and how different they are from California. He should come to Colorado to visit, we’d be happy to teach him.

Kathy Escamilla
Associate Professor of Education
University of Colorado, Boulder

Sent to the Lowell Sun (Massachusetts) October 25, 2002
To the editor:

The Sun quotes Ken Noonan (“California scores shape bilingual debate,” October 24) as saying that when Proposition 227 passed in California, the Oceanside district in California dropped bilingual education, embraced all-English, and test scores went up. But before we conclude that immersion is better than bilingual education, we should consider the following:

* Stanford professor Kenji Hakuta and his associates have shown that gains for Oceanside’s English learners were similar to gains made in many California schools that retained bilingual education.

* The bilingual program that Oceanside dropped was a poor one. In an article in the Washington Post (Sept. 2, 2000), Noonan confirmed that Oceanside’s bilingual program taught only in Spanish until grades five or six. Properly organized bilingual programs introduce English the first day, and teach subject matter in English as soon as it can be made comprehensible. An article in the San Diego Union Tribune (October 5, 2000) confirmed suspicions that Oceanside’s pre-Prop 227 efforts were dismal. Before 227, “a lot of students (at Laurel Elementary School) didn’t even have books.”

* At the same time Oceanside dropped an inadequate bilingual program, the district focused nearly all its energy on test preparation. From the Union Tribune article, one gets the impression that all activities unrelated to test preparation were dropped from the school day, such as field trips and assemblies, and students spent a great deal of time on practice tests. In addition, strong carrots (financial rewards for teachers if test scores went up) and sticks (threats of school closure if scores went down) were instituted by the state.

It should also be pointed out that real research published in respectable scientific journals, not media reports or press releases, consistently shows that students in properly organized bilingual programs acquire at least as much English as comparison students in all-English programs, and usually acquire more.

Oceanside’s gains do not demonstrate that immersion is better than bilingual education.

Stephen Krashen, Ph.D.
Emeritus Professor


Published in the Union-News, October 24, 2002 

Jackson St. School Council opposes bilingual initiative

The Jackson St. School Council, which is made up of teachers, parents, principal and community members, urges a “no” vote on Question 2. We strongly object to the divisive and confusing ballot initiative, in which voters will decide the educational future of linguistic minority children in Massachusetts.

We are concerned that voters do not understand that learning English is one of bilingual education’s primary goals, and that bilingual education is more effective than English-only instruction in preparing students for the same level of academic work as their native English-speaking peers.

A “yes” vote on Question 2 would condemn our bilingual children to only one year of “English immersion,” after which they would be placed in a mainstream classroom to “sink or swim.” Professional educators and researchers are clear that one year of language training will help a child learn conversational English, but certainly not the kind of academic language necessary for school.

As parents of children at Jackson St. School, we value the multicultural and multilingual diversity of our children. Those of us who are monolingual English speakers hope our own children will learn Spanish. We certainly don’t want Spanish-speaking children to be told they can’t use their first language for learning.

As teachers, we believe that our professional training and experience should be respected. The threat of personal lawsuits for teaching a child in a language they can understand, as proposed in Question 2, is reprehensible.

As community members, we recognize that it is in our interest to provide the best possible learning environment for all children. We hope that local voters will join us on Nov. 5 and soundly reject Question 2. Vote “no” on Question 2.

SUSAN FINK, HOLLY GHAZEY For the Jackson St. School Council


Sent to the Denver Post October 23, 2002

Dear Editor,

As a former Coloradan, I continue to follow issues in the state. And Wow! Speaking of whoppers, that was some column about bilingual education that Al Knight wrote. I realize columnists don’t have to operate under the same standards of non-bias as reporters, but that doesn’t excuse him from not exercising some ethics. He engages in the same sort of ignorance baiting that he accuses bilingual
proponents of.

He writes,

”The first is that the amendment will deprive students of needed instruction. The opposite is true. The amendment requires that English learners be given English instruction. The amendment’s core purpose is to make sure this instruction is in English.”

In this claim, the first two sentences are completely antithetical to the last two. How much biology, science, history, geography or anything else could most Coloradans learn if it were taught completely in Swahili? Not much. Why would we think that is any different for children? Study after study demonstrates that children in English immersion fall behind academically.

Knight goes on to argue, “[English immersion] is not revolutionary. Non-English-speaking students from scores of countries already receive instruction in English.” Does the simple fact that something happens automatically make it desireable?

Continuing this argument, Knight explains, “What Amendment 31 would do is require the same type of instruction for thousands of Spanish-speaking students, mostly from Mexico, who are currently being taught in Spanish. The amendment’s opponents haven’t said much about why a teaching technique that works for students from other countries can’t work with students whose native language is Spanish.” Nevertheless, just because we cannot provide the more effective program for all students does not mean we should deny it to some. To take a medical analogy, we can’t cure all types of cancer, but that doesn’t mean we just let all cancer sufferers die needlessly.

Then Knight finally makes a credible point: “Nor have [bilingual proponents] argued that the English immersion technique doesn’t work.” I agree. Bilingual proponents should be focusing on the fact that English immersion tends not to be as effective as bilingual education. After all, the great bulk of empirical research supports this claim as do the dismal results in California. This is not to say, however, that we should take the opposite route of Amendment 31 and make English immersion nearly impossible for parents to choose for their children (which it does for bilingual education). English immersion is effective for many children and many parents would, I am sure, choose it. They
should have it. Why shouldn’t the opposite be true as well?

John E. Petrovic
a former Coloradan

Published in the Union-News, October 22, 2002 

ESL programs are effective; don’t vote to abolish them Proponents of Question 2 who claim to understand bilingual education and
who describe bilingual education programs as teaching students Spanish rather than English are engaged in a deliberate deception.

Whatever problems may exist in some Spanish Transitional Bilingual Education programs, this description takes one extreme form of a bilingual education program and presents it as the whole ball of wax.

In Massachusetts, “bilingual education” is an umbrella term that covers a diverse group of English language acquisition programs.

The ESL programs that exist in many school systems under this umbrella do nothing but teach English in English. They are themselves a counter example to the arguments deployed in support of Question 2.

ESL programs are provably successful. Students who test into these programs with limited English proficiency come to function at grade level by passing through a program that continuously decreases their time in ESL English classes and increases their time in mainstream English classes until they can succeed on their own in all academic areas.

It can’t be done any faster (in the school setting) than these programs do it, as residents of California are now finding out.

These programs minimize the disruption that can occur in mainstream classes for mainstream students if teachers take the time to
accommodate language learners while also attempting normal subject instruction.

In this way, they do a service to the entire school community. These programs need to be retained - by defeating Question 2.



Published in the Denver Post, October 22, 2002
Original URL: http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,1413,36%257E73%257E940224,00.html

Dropout reasons

Mr. Knight’s arguments for Amendment 31 were persuasive. Too bad they weren’t based in fact. He cited Hispanic dropout rates as evidence of the failure of bilingual education.

Low graduation rates for Hispanic students are certainly reason for concern, but are not the result of bilingual education. Published research demonstrates that a variety of factors influence dropout rates. Students are more likely to graduate if they come from wealthier
families, have lived in the U.S. for longer periods of time, have access to printed materials in the home, live with both parents, have parents who monitor their homework and avoid teen pregnancy. Unfortunately, Hispanic children, when compared to white non-Hispanic children, fare worse in these categories. When research controls for these factors, Hispanic dropout rates match those for other groups.

No credible studies have identified bilingual education as a risk factor for dropping out of school. In fact, research suggests that children in bilingual programs drop out less than English-only students.

There are many ways we could improve graduation rates for Hispanic students. Eliminating educational opportunities doesn’t make the list, nor does it make any sense. Vote no on 31.



Published in the Denver Post, October 22, 2002
Original URL: 

Whose deceipt?
Re: “Bilingual deception,” Oct. 13 Al Knight column.

Al Knight is the latest victim of the misinformation wars surrounding bilingual ed. His claim that the high Latino dropout rate proves bilingual ed’s failure is ludicrous, given that less than 20 perent of all Latinos have ever been in any bilingual program. What’s more, a
recent survey of young Latinos who did drop out indicated that only 13 percent had ever been in bilingual ed. That means 87 percent of dropouts have been in English-only classes.

The data from California further illustrate the failure of total English immersion. Only 4 percent of high-school students in English immersion programs scored proficient in reading, and the achievement gap between English speakers and English learners has steadily increased since English immersion was mandated there. After four years of English immersion, close to 70 percent of English learners still haven’t been placed in regular English classes because they aren’t even close to the skills of their English-speaking peers. But don’t worry - according to Al, once we get rid of bilingual ed, we in Colorado will be able to do in nine months what California hasn’t accomplished in four years. Yeah, right, Al. Bilingual deception, indeed - except who’s deceiving whom?

Rocky Mountain Deaf School

October 20, 2002

Published in the Vail Daily, October 20,2002 

Student against 31
Mary Ramirez, Student, Battle Mountain High School

Can Amendment 31 be a good thing? As a Latina in this country, I know that Amendment 31 will do nothing good for students.

I was born in Dallas, Texas, and was raised right on the border of El Paso, Texas, and Mexico. As a little girl I knew only Spanish and most of my friends knew the same language as well, and none of us were immigrants. There were some kids in our community who spoke Spanish and English because their parents wanted them to be more productive in life and speak two languages.

So, because I didn’t speak English back then, am I supposed to believe all the money the school spent on all of its Latinos was a waste of money? Of course not.

I’m not going to be a high school dropout. I have college plans and so do my friends back in Texas. Some of my friends are already in college. So be careful with what you vote for if you vote for Amendment 31.

For example, in section 18 parts D-F, it states the following:

D) The public schools of Colorado do an inadequate job of educating immigrant children, wasting financial resources on costly experimental native language programs whose failure over past decades is demonstrated by the current high dropout rates and low English literacy levels of many immigrant children.

For starters, not all these children are immigrants. They’re regular students. So stop calling them that, because at one point all of you might have been, too. This money is not going to waste because these students are learning. Furthermore, they don’t even get that much money because there aren’t that many Spanish speaking kids in school compared to the rest of the student body.

Note one thing: not all of high school dropouts are Hispanics. There are also other demographics that contribute to that number. So what’s their excuse? Hispanics who drop out mostly do it because they don’t understand what they are doing in the English language. Putting a time limit on these students and more pressure is not going to help.

E) 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. Yeah, one year is enough if you’re like in first grade when your vocabulary is not that expanded. But in high school your vocabulary is huge and to learn a new language in one year, that’s not just stupid, it’s impossible.

F) Therefore it is resolved that: all children in Colorado public schools shall be taught English rapidly and effectively as possible. Now, no one is arguing that kids need to learn English as fast as they can, but a year is not going to do. The reality is you need to give these students time.

Amendment 31, in a way, judges us by the language we speak. The people who support this amendment are not living up to the standards of the U.S, where it is said to be the land of opportunity.

So don’t get on these students’ cases. Give them a chance. Your ancestors got a chance, and thanks to them you’re here. These kids want to learn and they will, if given the time. If you’ve never tried to talk to these students, try it some time. They have as much, or sometimes, even more potential than your average English-speaking teen-ager. All they need is encouragement. They are grateful for the help they get, so don’t vote yes on this amendment. You would be taking away that little push they have from their teachers and friends. They are happy to be in class and to have a chance.

Sent to the Rocky Mountain News, October 20, 2002

In agreement with the Rocky Mountain News (“The downfall of Amendment  31,” October 20) I am opposed to instruction that remains mostly in  the first language for years and that delays the acquisition of English. But I am in favor of quality bilingual education.

Good bilingual programs use the first language in a way that accelerates English language development. This happens in two ways: Good bilingual programs teach subject matter in the first language in early stages. The knowledge that students gain this way helps them understand subject matter when it is taught in English, which means faster English language development. These programs also provide literacy development in the first language, which is a short-cut to English literacy. It is much easier to learn to read in a language one understands, and once one learns to read in any language, much of this ability transfers to the second language.

Quality bilingual programs also introduce English the first day and teach subject matter in English as soon as it can be made

Nearly every scholar who has reviewed the scientific research has concluded that bilingual education works. The most recent review, by Jay Greene of the Manhattan Institute, found that use of the native language has positive effects on English language development and that “efforts to eliminate the use of the native language in instruction ... harm children by denying them access to beneficial approaches.”

Stephen Krashen, Ph.D.
Emeritus Professor, University of Southern California.


Published in the Boston Globe, October 20, 2002
Original URL: 

Allow a child to learn in her first language

TUESDAY’S ARTICLE about bilingual education made passing reference to some key pedagogical points that the advocates of Question 2 ignore and that bilingual education experts have affirmed through long experience and research (“Immersed in debate,” City & Region, Oct. 15). These points deserve to be highlighted, for they give us good reason to vote “no” on this destructive ballot initiative.

First, proficiency in conversational English, which can be gained quite quickly by young children simply through exposure, is not the same as proficiency in the level of English needed to succeed academically, which takes much longer to develop. Even though a child may have learned sufficient English to speak it well, if she is forced prematurely into an all-English classroom, she will not be able to keep up with her native English-speaking peers and may well be set up for failure.

Second, children have a much better chance at academic success if they learn basic skills in their native language. Once a child learns to read, for example, in his first language, that skill is easily transferrable to a second. A child who is forced to learn to read in a language with which he is not yet comfortable or familiar has much less chance of success and could well end up struggling with literacy all through school.

As the parent of two immigrant children whose native language is not English, I have seen the damage done by well-meaning attempts at English immersion as well as the blossoming that occurs when a child is allowed to learn in her first language. Despite its deceptive slogan, “English for the children,” Question 2’s attempts to abolish bilingual
education will not help immigrant youngsters.

Denying children the opportunity to learn in their native language while becoming proficient in English will ensure that a great many fail to learn at all, and our whole society will be the poorer for it.



Published in the Boston Globe, October 20, 2002
Original URL:  http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/293/letter/We_are_a_multicultural_society+.shtml

Language of competition in the marketplace

JEFF JACOBY sounds presumptuous in his Oct. 3 op-ed page column. How can he know how all Hispanics feel? However, he is right that English immersion may be the best alternative in bilingual education.

Teaching immigrants in their own language ensures that they remain behind in American schools. Both our children learned English from their babysitters and Spanish at home.

We tried but failed to get our daughter into a bilingual program. Our son didn’t have the option.

Without the help of bilingual education and forced to compete with their monolingual peers, they soon turned Spanish into their second language. Now college-educated adults, their ability to speak, read, and write in Spanish has given them an extra dimension and enhanced their professional competitiveness.

With Americans and immigrants becoming more educated and competitive, the economic and cultural pie increases  for everyone. For our own children, any education that did not involve exclusively English would have been a mistake. Immigrants cannot vote and may not now realize how important the issue of bilingual education is. Their children will find out soon enough that the language of competition in the marketplace is English.



Published in the Boston Globe, October 20, 2002
Original URL:  http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/293/letter/We_are_a_multicultural_society+.shtml

Shame on Unz and Romney

IF TRANSITIONAL bilingual education is banned in Boston, children who haven’t learned English yet will be taught math and science in English. They will not learn math or science and will have trouble all their lives balancing their checkbooks and calculating the difference between 7 percent and 7.5 percent when their meager paychecks are taxed
for Social Security.

Shame on Michigan-Utah-Massachusetts millionnaire Mitt Romney and his running mate for going along with California millionaire Ron Unz in a plan to deny basic education to children born in the United States and to recent immigrants from other countries.



Published in the Boston Globe, October 20, 2002
Original URL:  http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/293/letter/We_are_a_multicultural_society+.shtml

Bilingual ed is working in Massachusetts

AS A LATINA who is bilingual with two master’s degrees and months away from completing my doctorate, I am tired of others telling me how I should think and feel, as Jeff Jacoby does in his Oct. 3 column, “English 101.”

Equally disturbing are those Latinos who also think that they can speak for the whole community, such as Lincoln Tamayo or the head of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Is Ron Unz more concerned with his political agenda than the needs of our students in Massachusetts? Yes. The comment made at a recent rally at the State House likening him to a Nazi was unfortunate. But I am fighting desperately to defeat Question 2 because the teaching of immigrant students is my passion and because I know it is bad for our students. I do not fear losing my job. Remember, I am bilingual. I have a skill in demand throughout the United States. I can find a job in almost any industry.

I teach because I want immigrant students to have every opportunity I have been given. I want them to learn English and succeed. Bilingual education is working in Massachusetts. Get your history right. Prior to the law of 1971 establishing bilingual education in Massachusetts, we had massive dropout rates of our English language learners – as many as 90 percent of Latinos.

Let’s have a thoughtful debate about what is best for children and not resort to misconceptions, half-truths, and hateful rhetoric.



Published in the Boston Globe, October 20, 2002
Original URL:  http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/293/letter/We_are_a_multicultural_society+.shtml

Parents should make the choice

IN HIS Oct. 3 column, Jeff Jacoby explains his support of English-only education for the children of Massachusetts without considering the potential effects of such legislation on the parents of children who are learning English.

He writes: “If I were a Hispanic American, I would feel humiliated every time an automated telephone answering system prompted me to press 1 for English, 2 for Spanish.”

If Question 2 passes, parents who speak languages other than English (not only Spanish, but Mandarin, Vietnamese, Russian, Khmer, Portuguese, and many others), will face true humiliation as they are informed that they no longer have the right to choose the best educational option available for their children. They will not be able to decide whether to enroll their children in a two-way program, a transitional bilingual program, or an English immersion

Instead, they will have only one choice: English immersion for one year. English-speaking parents, on the other hand, would still be able to choose education in a world language for their children. This amounts to reprehensible discrimination against the speakers of other languages.

Question 2 on the ballot next month suggests that its authors are not only qualified, but obligated, to make choices that are best left to parents. Proponents of English for the children are effectively shunning the input of adults who come to this country in search of a life with more and better options than they had in their home countries.

As their children pursue the American Dream, these parents will find innumerable challenges. We owe it to these parents to sustain and improve a variety of programs, including bilingual education, so that they, like their American-born peers, can make the choices that best meet their children’s needs.

Speakers of other languages are as able to defend the interests of their children as speakers of English unless Massachusetts limits their decision-making power by adopting Question 2.



Published in the Boston Globe, October 20, 2002
Original URL:  http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/293/letter/We_are_a_multicultural_society+.shtml
Fluent in two languages

TO JEFF JACOBY (op ed, Oct. 3) and others who misuse the word bilingual, I ask, how many bilingual classrooms have you visited?

Have you checked out the waiting lists for adults to enroll in English as a second language classes? Have you read the opposing views to Rosalie Porter by Stephen Krashen and others?

To be bilingual is to be fluent in two languages. All across the state, children are studying the academics in their first language so that they do not fall behind their monolingual English peers while at the same time they are learning English.

Most students transition into English-speaking classrooms after two years. They do not languish in bilingual classrooms. One approach to learning a language does not fit all. School districts must have the ability to choose the right approach for their students. The state Legislature has given school districts the opportunity to choose by overhauling the bilingual law. Don’t take this away through a ballot initiative.



Published in the Boston Globe, October 20, 2002
Original URL:  http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/293/letter/We_are_a_multicultural_society+.shtml
Bilingual education is the great tranquilizer

MASSACHUSETTS IS lucky in that we are not the first state where Ron Unz has attacked the public education system. Unz managed to impose his English-immersion law in California, and it is a documented failure. We in Massachusetts have been forewarned.

I favor bilingual education in the public schools because the American public school system was created in order to be the great equalizer. The original goal was that after graduation every student would be equipped to become part of the work force. The new goal now is for students also to be equipped to continue on to higher education. For the
non-English speaking student, the equalizer element in school is the bilingual program. There are proven models that work in Canada, Europe, and Asia where the populations are multilingual.

I am not an educator, but I am bilingual and a product of an immersion program. In my opinion, an effective bilingual program must provide for a strong English language and English literature curriculum. After all, the non-English speaker has had less exposure to academic English than his/her peers.

Having come from an immersion English program, I went through elementary and middle school with apparent success. My conversational English skills were excellent.

In high school, I noticed that I was not as skilled in English composition, vocabulary, and reading comprehension as my native English-speaking peers. I got lower SAT scores than I ever expected. College was particularly difficult because my mastery of the English language was substandard when compared with that of the average college student.

It’s impossible to provide in just one year the kind of instruction necessary for successful mastery of the English language. At the public schools, there needs to be more bilingual education, not less, and higher standards to transition the students into the American work force successfully.



Published in the Rocky Mountain News, October 19, 2002


Amendment 31 puts educators in a bind

Let me get this straight: Arizona’s equivalent of Colorado’s proposed Amendment 31 has resulted in parents suing educators because a waiver wasn’t granted, and now, Colorado’s more restrictive, more punitive amendment will allow parents to sue educators if a waiver is granted (and then later felt to be a mistake). Talk about a rock and a hard place - educators can be
sued either way!

Where in America does that make any sense? Not in Colorado. Learn from Arizona’s and California’s mistakes. Vote no on 31.

Chris Cameron


Published in the Arizona Daily Star, October 19, 2002
Original URL: http://www.azstarnet.com/star/today/21019satletrpckg.html

Bilingual education works very well

Jeff Jacoby’s Oct. 5 column “Immersion best way to learn English” was misleading.

He cited two “sterling” sources for the “failure” of bilingual education - Ron Unz and Rosalie Pedalino Porter. Both are opponents of bilingual education who would never consider evidence contrary to their established opinions.

Jacoby stated that the evidence against bilingual education is “voluminous,” but failed to refer to even one study or report on one classroom to support that assertion.

I challenge Jacoby and anyone else who is certain that English immersion is better than a well-managed bilingual program actually to visit some bilingual classrooms and English-immersion classrooms and see for themselves.

It’s a pity Jacoby did not bother to do so before writing such a one-sided piece.

The goal of every U.S. bilingual program is English proficiency. A few poorly administered programs have given all bilingual programs a bad name. Bilingual education should be fixed, not abandoned.

A good journalist would explore multiple viewpoints and trustworthy sources to ensure a balanced, insightful report. Jacoby perpetuated lies with a biased and poorly researched piece.

John F. Gates
University of Arizona graduate with a master’s in bilingual and multicultural education


Sent to the Ventura County Star

Incumbent candidate for the Oxnard school board Roy Caffrey is interested in determining how California districts that dropped bilingual education managed in increase test scores (“6 seek 3 trustee spots for Oxnard district, “ October 17).
Test scores have increased for everybody in California since 1998, including districts that kept bilingual education through special waivers and districts that never did bilingual education. At the same time Proposition 227 passed, California introduced a new test, the SAT9. Research has shown that after new tests are introduced, test scores go up, which is why commercial tests need to be recalibrated every few years. Prop. 227 deserves none of the credit for this increase.

Voters in the Oxnard School Board election might be interested in knowing that nearly every scholar who has reviewed the published research has concluded that bilingual education works. Children in bilingual programs acquire at least as much English as children in all-English immersion programs and usually acquire more. The most recent review of this research, by Jay Greene of the Manhattan Institute, found that 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.”

Stephen Krashen, Ph.D.
Emeritus Professor


Published in the Arizona Daily Star, October 25, 2002 http://www.azstarnet.com/star/fri/21025friletrpckg.html

Dear Arizona Daily Star Editor:
I am appalled at the bizarre occurrences with this new AZ Learns rating system. A fine magnet elementary school that accomplishes amazing things for students, both neighborhood and magnet students, has been ridiculously labeled as underperforming! Let’s look at the data.

In 2000-01, the percentage of Gr. 5 students at Davis Bilingual Magnet School achieving mastery on the AIMS tests were 42% in Reading, 73% in Writing and 34% in Math, but in 2001-02 the numbers became 66.7% in Reading, 63.6% in Writing and 61.8% in Math. Ok, they dropped in writing while they made amazing gains in the other two areas. They still beat out the district averages in all areas. District 5th graders overall had 53.9% pass Reading, 53.4% pass Writing and 39.8% pass Math. The story is even better in 3rd grade. The mastery rates are 91.7%, 91.7% and 77.8%!

On the contrary, one school that inexplicably escaped the “underperforming” label and was called “maintaining” is the lowest in mastery of Reading and Writing with 15% and 10% respectively and they are in 11th to the last in the district with 17% passing Math. By what sick mind is Davis underperforming and the other school is maintaining?

This system is designed to make public schools look bad, no other way to look at it. It is part of the plan of people such as George W. Bush, Rod Paige and their followers (Any local leaders come to mind?). They would prefer to suck public money out of public schools and give it to their favorite private schools as vouchers for students “fleeing
underperforming schools”. This is a disgrace!

Arizonans better not believe those labels! They are meaningless!

Julie G. Neff-Encinas
Observant citizen 


Sent to the Christian Science Monitor, October 17, 2002

The Monitor (October 17) feels that controversies over the effectiveness of bilingual education remain. Not in the scientific research: Nearly every scholar who has reviewed the research has concluded that bilingual education works. Children in bilingual programs acquire at least as much English as children in all-English immersion programs and usually acquire more. The most recent review of this research, by Jay Greene of the Manhattan Institute, found that 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.”

The Monitor states that some studies show immersion students do better in English in the long run. Not so. A recent study by J. Guzman in Education Next claimed to show that those in bilingual education earned (slightly) less later in life, but Guzman’s definition of bilingual education excluded instruction in English as a second language (ESL): All quality bilingual programs include plenty of ESL.

The Monitor also reports that people are concerned that “huge communities of non-English speakers exist for generations.” They do not. Such enclaves consist largely of recent immigrants. L. Tse, in her book Why Don’t They Learn English: Separating Fact from Fallacy in the US Language Debate reviews the research and concludes that “successive generations rarely live in the same enclave community Šthe children and grandchildren of immigrants usually move out of the enclave
and are replaced by new immigrant families.”

Stephen Krashen,
Emeritus Professor, University of Southern California

Published in the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, October 15, 2002

Dear Editor,
With all the media attention that ballot measure 31 has been receiving lately, I wanted to bring to light several key points to consider when voting for or against this amendment. These points have nothing to do with being for or against bilingual education or wanting all children to learn English, but are concerns dealing with money, legal battles and local control.

First of all, this would be an amendment to our state constitution. What that means is that the members of the state governing bodies were unable to make a clear decision on the matter and therefore put it to a public vote. I for one am hesitant to vote “yes” for a measure that would change our state constitution. Especially one that if we later disagree with, would be extremely difficult to get

Secondly, the measure itself brings up several areas of concern. Specifically the right of each district to have local control over their curriculum and school structure. If this measure passes it takes away the rights of each district to decide what will best meet the needs of their students and community.

The decision-making power will then reside with the state and federal government. It will also set the precedent for future battles with other programs run under local control, such as Special Education, Gifted and Talented Programs, Sports, etc.

The measure requires that all students who are non-native English speakers receive one — and only one — year of intense English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction and then will be placed in a regular English-speaking classroom for the remainder of their education. That would mean that all of these students would be grouped into classrooms with ESL-certified teachers and taught for one
year. Where will these teachers come from? There is already a shortage. Who will pay for their salaries and materials? Which teachers who are not ESL-certified will lose their jobs to make room for the new ones? The state budget is already at a deficit. Will taxes be hiked to cover the cost?

Finally, if 25 percent of the parents in a school district sign a waiver and write a 250-word essay in English explaining why they want their child to receive a bilingual education then the school district may have such a program. But, if a child whose parents placed them in a bilingual program fails at some point in their education (within ten years of entering the program) their parent may sue the
teacher directly for the failure of their child and the teacher may lose their license for up to five years.

Why are we punishing teachers who are teaching a program that so many parents went to so much work to have in the first place? Are parents no longer accountable for the decisions they make on behalf of their children? What message does this send to our children? Do we not hold them accountable for their choices?

Basically, this measure has really very little to do with the pros and cons of bilingual education. In fact, it is just another way for the state and federal governments to gain more control. Please consider these facts when deciding your vote on ballot measure 31, because it really will affect all of us, not just our children.
Teresa Vessels
Public School Teacher
Glenwood Springs

Sent to the Denver Post October 14, 2002:

The only deception that is going on in programs for English Learners is the language in Amendment 31 that states, “not to exceed one year”. This one year English immersion program is being lauded as a way for non-English speaking students to learn English. This certainly has not happened in California where over a million English Learners have been in programs for over two or three years. The legislatively mandated study of Proposition 227 programs in California finds that English learners have not become fluent in English and that the achievement gap persists. This same study also shows that students in the bilingual programs remaining in California are learning English and gaining in achievement---just as the many research studies on bilingual programs have consistently shown.

Furthermore, the drop-out rate in California has not improved under a one-year English immersion program. Sponsors of the measure are being deceptive because the drop out rate in California has actually increased over the last four years (Proposition 227 passed in 1998). Since over 88% of the English Learners in California are in all English programs, can we attribute the dropout figures for Hispanic students to this failed approach?

Maria S. Quezada, Ph.D

Originally published in the Daily Coloradoan, Sunday, October 13, 2002

Original URL: http://vh80003.vh8.infi.net/news/stories/20021013/opinion/281280.html

A failure elsewhere
By John T. Gless

The central claim of Amendment 31 backers is nine months or less in special classrooms is enough to become fluent in English. As evidence, they cite the record in California, where a similar initiative was passed in 1998.

Look at the 2002 data and you’ll find that in second grade, only 33 percent of California “English learners” scored at or above grade level in reading. By third grade, just 20 percent were at grade level, compared with 61 percent of English
speakers. Furthermore, of all the English learners in 1998 (1.4 million), fewer than one-third have now been declared fluent—after four years.

Imagine a tree farmer who spends extra to plant five seedlings in special pots, and carefully waters them for one year. He transplants them into the hard ground and gives them no water except for the rain that falls from the sky. By the third
year, all but one of his trees are lost, and yet the farmer declares himself a stellar success and tries to pass a law making every other tree farmer do the same thing. Wouldn’t that be silly?

Please vote “no” on Amendment 31 www.NO-on-31.org. You and your seedlings will be glad you did.

John T. Gless,
Fort Collins

Originally published in the Daily Coloradoan, Sunday, October 13, 2002

Original URL: http://vh80003.vh8.infi.net/news/stories/20021013/opinion/281278.html

Make the right choice
By Sarah Ryan

I am a big supporter of public education and have recently moved to Colorado. I was so excited to be coming to a state that places such a value on education and meeting the needs of all students, a state that truly values local  choice and allows each district to decide how to best meet the needs of its students.

That is why I am so dismayed at the possibility that the citizens of Colorado might allow that all to change. Based on my experiences, I believe the people of Colorado want better for their schools and their children.

That’s why I encourage them to say “no” to Amendment 31. Despite the crafty advertising campaign for this amendment and a ballot title that appears quite worthy and well-intentioned, this amendment would have devastating repercussions for all students of Colorado, no matter what language they speak.

Class sizes will increase, all students will receive less teacher time, local taxes will rise to fund this mandate, and the right to local control will be ripped away from school districts and taxpayers. I urge you, as concerned and educated citizens, to make the right choice on election voting.

Sarah Ryan,
 Fort Collins

Letter published in the Union-News October 13, 2002

Original URL: http://www.masslive.com/letters/unionnews/index.ssf?/base/news-0/103450030120690.xml

Letters to the editor 10/13/2002
Mass. teachers know best about bilingual education

I have decided the candidates for whom I will vote on election day, but I remain deeply troubled over how to vote regarding bilingual education in public schools. I consider myself to be a well-informed voter, who carefully researches issues to the best of my ability.

When it comes to bilingual education, however, I have no idea what is in the best interest of our students, and I suspect that such is the case for most voters. So it seems to me that whether to use bilingual education, immersion, or some other methodology should be decided not by politicians and not through a plebiscite, but by the people who have expertise in this area, and who ultimately are accountable for their choices: our unfairly much-maligned and under-appreciated professional teachers.

It is an outrage and an act of consummate arrogance that politicians micromanage our public education system. By doing so, they prevent teachers from using their highly specialized skills and knowledge, much like when a clerk for an HMO dictates what medicines a doctor may prescribe.

Politicians have no business telling teachers how to teach, especially when they have failed so miserably to adequately fund public education. It is equally outrageous that an issue as vitally important as bilingual education should be decided by the not-fully-informed - myself included, for I am not a teacher.

The mere fact that this issue will appear on the ballot demonstrates how teachers are hamstrung by the uninformed policies that have been imposed on them, but which do not embrace sound educational practices. And, let’s not forget that if this ballot initiative passes, teachers could be sued if they fail to strictly avoid bilingual techniques.

Shamefully, the way we treat teachers is akin to an audience telling the concert pianist that she may not use the pedals, may play only in the key of C, and only in three-quarter time - and if she fails to comply, the audience may sue her. Then, after the concert, the audience complains about the lackluster performance.

So, because I am opposed to political micromanagement of public education, respect the expertise of professional educators, and because I believe it is wrong to decide issues such as bilingual education based on a popularity contest, I will follow the lead of the public school teachers, as expressed by the Massachusetts Teachers Association: I will vote NO on question 2, and I urge others to do the same.

JAMES J. PALERMO Northampton

Sent to the Los Angeles Times, October 13

Mary Margaret Silva (letters, October 13) claims that bilingual education has produced “mostly all negative results.” The scientific research says otherwise. Nearly every scholar who has reviewed the published research has concluded that bilingual education works. Children in bilingual programs acquire at least as much English as children in all-English immersion programs and usually acquire more. The most recent review of this research, by Jay Greene of the Manhattan Institute, found that 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.” Those who profit from bilingual education are not its advocates, as Ms. Silva claims, but the children in the programs. They acquire English and develop their first language at no extra cost.

Stephen Krashen, Ph.D.
Emeritus Professor, University of Southern California.


Sent to the Union-New, October 13, 2002

The Union-News (“Bilingual: Issue Keys Debate, October 13) presents testimony from all sides: Some people think bilingual education is helpful, some think it is not necessary, and some think it is harmful.

Voters may want to consider the research on this issue: Scientific studies have been done that compare the progress of English learners who participate in bilingual programs and those who do not. These children have similar backgrounds: the only difference is whether the first language is used in the classoom. Nearly every scholar who has reviewed this research has concluded that bilingual education works. Children in bilingual programs acquire at least as much English as children in all-English immersion programs and usually acquire more. The most recent review of this research, by Jay Greene of the Manhattan Institute, found that 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.”

Question 2 seeks to make this successful approach illegal.

Stephen Krashen, Ph.D.
Emeritus Professor, University of Southern California.

Originally published in the Daily Coloradoan, Sunday, October 12, 2002
Original URL:

Save the Harris school
By Lucas Suazo

My name is Lucas Suazo and I am in fourth grade at Harris Bilingual Immersion School. There is somebody who wants to pass a law that will close my school of choice.

I love my school. I love my teachers. I love everything that I am learning. But I can’t vote.

I wish someone would ask my opinion if I like my school, if I love my teachers. I heard that this person who wants to take away my school is not even from Colorado. He is from California. This makes me really sad. How does he know how great my school is?

Since I can’t vote, I urge you to please vote for me. Please vote “no” an Amendment 31.

Lucas Suazo,
Fort Collins


Sent to the Orange County Register

Columnist Steven Greenhut, in discussing the Nativo Lopez recall effort, writes that “the big issue remains bilingual education, the controversial teaching concept that kept students from learning English because it taught subjects to them mainly in their native language” (“Nativo Lopez’s divisive politics,” October 13). Wrong, all wrong.

Bilingual education is the use of the child’s first language to accelerate English language development. Study after study shows it does just that: Children in bilingual programs consistently acquire at least as much English as those in all-English programs and usually acquire more.

In addition, bilingual education does not “teach subjects mainly in (the) native language.” English is introduced the first day and subjects are taught in English as soon as they can be made comprehensible. Most children in bilingual programs who begin school at kindergarten have acquired enough English to do regular classwork in English within three years.

Stephen Krashen, Ph.D.
Emeritus Professor, University of Southern California.


Sent to the Wall Street Journal, October 11

The WSJ has it wrong: Banning bilingual education deserves none of  the credit for increases in test scores in California (“Bilingual  Balderash, October 11). A new test, the SAT9, was introduced in California at the same time the ban on bilingual education took effect. Test scores always increase after new tests are introduced,  which is why tests need to be recalibrated after a few years. Test scores went up for everybody in California, including districts that kept bilingual education, and districts that never did bilingual education.

The WSJ also errs when it describes bilingual programs as a  “euphemism for Spanish-only instruction.” English is introduced in bilingual programs on the first day, and academic subjects are taught in English as soon as they can be made comprehensible. Most children who start bilingual programs at kindergarten have acquired enough English to do regular work in the mainstream by the end of grade two.

Bilingual programs use the first language in a way that accelerates  English language development. This fact has been confirmed by numerous scientific studies that show that children in bilingual  programs acquire at least as much English as children in all-English immersion programs and often acquire more.

Stephen Krashen, Ph.D.
Emeritus Professor, University of Southern California.


Letter Published Against ballot Question 2--Massachusetts

Original URL:  http://www.townonline.com/arlington/news/opinion/aa_letaaletterse10

Thursday, October 10, 2002

I am writing to encourage a no vote on Question 2 in November. Everyone believes that students should learn English in school. The question is how best to do that.

I am a certified English as a Second Language teacher, and elementary bilingual teacher. Question 2 would make it illegal for any teacher, administrator or School Committee member to speak to a child in that child’s native language.

In our modern world, jobs require higher levels of literacy than they ever have in the past. In order to ensure that all students can be as literate as they can be, educational research has shown that immigrant students who learn to read in their native language, will become more literate in English. It is in order to teach students English at a level that will enable them to compete in the 21st century job market, that bilingual education is essential.

I work in a public school in another city in which half the children are learning English and the other half are learning Spanish. The children work together to learn the other language. It is a program that parents choose for their children -
no one in the state of Massachusetts is foced into a bilingual program. It is no more expensive than other programs in the city.

If Question 2, placed on the November ballot by California millionaire Ron Unz, is passed, this successful program, as well as many other successful programs like it, will be illegal, and therefore eliminated.

Please vote no on Question 2. Bilingual education is often the best way to teach students English literacy.

Marion Magill
Chester Street


Letter sent to the Rocky Mountain News:

Re: Unz criticizes Owens for opposing proposal October 3, 2002: For six years now I have read how “the Silicon Valley millionaire Ron Unz...”

What a hypocrite! Now he cries that someone besides he has money.

Unz has covered up California’s 93% failure rate to make immigrant children English fluent. He has distracted the public from the widening achievement gap in test scores. He has been silent about the millions of extra tax dollars in trying to maintain his failing law in California. He says that no teacher has been sued in California, yet he is heading a recall of a popular school board member. Justice in the court is blind, lies in an election can blind 50% plus one vote quite often.

If his English immersion was working, why isn’t someone other than the Silicon Valley millionaire Ron Unz exporting the success? Unz is a hypocrite.

Denis O’Leary
Education Adviser
League of United Latin American Citizens
National Far West Region (which includes Colorado)


Sent to the Springfield Union-News (Massachusetts), October 10.

Ron Unz is quoted in the Salem News (“Supporters defend bilingual schooling,” October 9) as saying that immigrant parents “don’t like these bilingual programs.” That’s not true. Hispanic voters opposed California’s Proposition 227 by a 2-1 margin. In our research, we found that most parents of limited English proficient children agreed that having a good foundation in the first language helped English language development, and most parents agreed that limited English proficient children should be in classrooms in which the first language is part of the curriculum.

Fay Shin, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Education, California State University, Long Beach

Stephen Krashen, Ph.D.
Emeritus Professor, University of Southern California.


Sent to the New York Times, October 9, 2002

The Times reported that test scores have increased in California since Prop 227 dismantled bilingual education (“Bilingual Education on Ballot in Two States,” October 9). This is true, but a new test, the SAT9, was introduced in California at the same time 277 took effect. Test scores always increase after new tests are introduced, which is why tests need to be recalibrated after a few years. Test scores increased for districts that kept bilingual education, and for districts that never did bilingual education. Thus, 227 deserves none of the credit for the increases.

The WestEd study mentioned in the article concluded that there was “no major effect” of Prop. 227, a conclusion that agrees with substantial published research showing that children in bilingual programs acquire English at least as well as children in immersion programs, and often do better. It thus appears that bilingual education is, at worst, just as effective as immersion. Why should voters even consider making it illegal?

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California


 Sent to the Boston Herald, October 6, 2002

Wayne Woodlief (“Watch for ballot bubble,” October 6) is misinformed about bilingual education. Woodlief notes that test scores for Latino children have increased since Proposition 227, California’s version of Question 2, passed in 1998. At the same time, however, California introduced a new test, the SAT9. Research has shown that after new tests are introduced, test scores go up, which is why commercial tests need to be recalibrated every few years. Prop. 227 deserves none of the credit for this increase. Test scores have risen for everybody in California, including English learners in districts that kept bilingual education (thanks to special waivers) and English learners in districts that never did bilingual education.

In addition, the California initiative has failed on its promise to teach children English in one year. Data released by the State of California on August 29 showed that there are 1,034,073 children in California who have been in school for one year or more and who have not yet been reclassified as fluent English proficient. Ron Unz, the sponsor of 227 and Question 2, considers reclassification to be the mark of “learning English.” If we accept the standard set up by Unz himself, Prop. 227 has failed 1,034,073 times.

Woodlief also repeats the claim that children in bilingual programs are segregated for five or six years. A look at the actual data shows this is false. For those who begin at kindergarten, most acquire enough English to do all classwork in the mainstream within three years. In addition, English instruction in bilingual education begins on day one, and academics are taught in English as soon as they can be made comprehensible.

Nearly every scholar who has reviewed the published research has concluded that bilingual education works. Children in bilingual programs acquire at least as much English as children in all-English immersion programs and usually acquire more. The most recent review of this research, by Jay Greene of the Manhattan Institute, found that 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.”

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California


Letter sent to the Denver Post 10/06/02:

Jim Lewis seems to believe that “studies” are not as good as hear say in his letter “Muddying the waters” (October 6, 2002). Stating “that two years after California implemented their version of Amendment 31, test scores of the children involved improved. And this is all that counts. It works.” is in itself pretty murky waters.

Test scores of English immersed students indeed went up, not mentioned is that English only speaking students scores went up even more in the same period. The achievement gap in fact widened, leaving the Unz kids even further behind. Also, if California millionaire Ron Unz’s plan was the only factor, why did English fluent students test scores improve? Did they learn more English than they had before?

Jim Lewis asks, “Does the education establishment want to get students communicating in English and into mainstream school classes as fast as possible, or does it want to maintain the status quo?”

The status quo has been established by Mr. Ron Unz in California for the past five years. Unz’s status quo has given a 93% failure rate to become English fluent, a widening achievement gap, more drop outs and millions of dollars in extra spending. Good luck Colorado.

Denis O’Leary
Education Advisor,
National Far West Region (including Colorado)
League of United Latin American Citizens


Published in The Denver Post 10/06/02

Dual immersion works

It is obvious why Rita Montero and Ron Unz specifically attack dual-immersion programs, calling supporters “vampires” and “fanatical.” It’s because students in dual immersion achieve higher English scores than students in the Amendment 31 program. Dual immersion is completely different from traditional “bilingual education.” In dual immersion, English-language learners are introduced to English starting on Day One and learn side-by-side with their English-speaking classmates instead of being segregated into a separate classroom.

Amendment 31 would outlaw dual immersion. In fact, Amendment 31, if passed, would wipe out not only bilingual education but also any other English teaching method or innovation that may come along. Only one program - Ron Unz’s program - would be legal, regardless of demographics, budget and student needs. In addition, it would take away
parents’ right to choose what is best for their children and would subvert local control of local schools. It must be hard to try to sell an initiative that would inadvertently ban our highest-achieving programs. No wonder the Amendment 31 sponsors feel the need to resort to name-calling.



Published in The Denver Post 10/06/02

On bilingual research

Re: “Bilingual research lacks definitive study,” Sept. 25 news story.

This story was unusually well-balanced, presenting all sides of a complex issue. It was stimulated by a study that recently appeared in the journal Education Next by Joseph Guzman. The study claimed that those who participated in bilingual education programs earned less a decade later. It should, however, be pointed out that Guzman also reported that this result was not statistically significant, that is, the results could have been due to chance. The actual difference, in fact, was only $1000 per year, about 2.5 percent of the average Hispanic family income at that time.

A close look at Guzman’s full report (online at www.educationnext.org/20023/58.html ), shows that the study has some serious flaws. The largest is the definition of bilingual education, which Guzman himself refers to as “coarse.” Subjects were defined as participating in bilingual education if they ever studied a subject taught in a foreign language. This could be one class, part of a class, or 10 years of study - we don’t know. Guzman also defined bilingual education as excluding classes in English as a Second Language. All properly organized bilingual programs include ESL and introduce it on the first day.

In short, Guzman’s study only showed that those who had any subject-matter classes that were taught in another language and who had no ESL, earned about as much as those who had ESL only. This could be interpreted as evidence for bilingual education.

Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California


Published in The Denver Post 10/06/02

The real bilingual ed

I am troubled by the misinformation Rita Montero presented on Sept. 22. She claimed that non-English-speaking students in Colorado are forced into Spanish-only “bilingual” or English-only ESL classes where they do not learn English.

A bilingual class is not a Spanish-only class. Bilingual programs teach students in two languages, English and another language. ESL (English as a Second Language) programs teach English in English. They do not instruct students in their native language. Everyone involved in bilingual or ESL programs insists that students be proficient in English as fast as possible.

The real debate is not whether students should learn English, but how students learn English. Even if some of Ms. Montero’s concerns about bilingual/ESL programs are valid, they should not be remedied with an amendment that mandates specific classroom methodology in our state constitution. Currently, local control allows parents and teachers to make instructional decisions. Amendment 31 would force schools to abandon this collaborative approach and students with diverse needs would have only one way to learn English.

If we want these students to be successful, productive members of society, then we shouldn’t eliminate the flexibility to effectively teach English.


Published in The Denver Post 10/06/02

Liability a deal-breaker

I am wondering why I have not seen more media coverage addressing a specific section of Amendment 31: “parents or legal guardians (may) obtain annual waivers allowing the children to transfer to classes using bilingual education allowing a parent or legal guardian to sue public employees granting a waiver if the parent or legal guardian later concludes that the waiver was granted in error and injured the child’s education.”

So let me get this straight: a parent can petition for his child to spend additional time in a bilingual program, but retains the right to sue the schools if the parent later regrets his own decision?

What a shame that this ridiculous clause is part of the amendment. As a supporter of English immersion, I would have been happy to vote for provisions to provide only that.

I fear that without a spotlight on this clause, voters may inadvertently support an issue that they otherwise would not.

Castle Rock


Published in The Denver Post 10/06/02

Two kinds of fluency

Teaching children English in a one-year immersion program might sound promising, but it is not based on research in language acquisition and makes no distinction between being conversationally fluent and fluent enough to learn academic material in a new language. Children are able to quickly pick up conversational English and so it seems that it only takes a few months to become fluent in English. But their vocabulary is limited to the words they hear and use in daily conversation.

School isn’t just about learning English, but about learning science, history, government, literature, and academic thinking and communication skills. It is true that in one nine-month school year, children can learn the basics - colors, clothing, family members, animals, food, jobs - and begin to read and write in English. But we’re kidding ourselves if we pretend this is adequate preparation to keep up with their English-speaking classmates.

Instead of being forced to learn academic subjects in a new language, it makes far more sense for students to be taught in their native languages as they transition into English. I’m almost afraid to admit that I’m an ESL teacher and work every day with children learning English. In every other field we turn to experts for guidance, but teachers who speak up for children are just trying to protect their cushy jobs. If Amendment 31 passes, my job prospects will expand - but my students might end up as second-generation busboys or hotel maids.



Published in The Boston Globe 10/06/02

Traumatizing students won’t help

GREATLY admired the commentary by Brookline teacher Tatiana With, who traveled to Korea for an immersion language and cultural experience to better understand her Korean students (“I walked a mile, and more, in my students’ shoes,” Education, Sept. 29).

One wonders how anyone can seriously suggest that Question 2 on the ballot, which would force students to endure hours of English immersion would be a good thing when With, a 32-year-old woman, found herself weeping in the bathroom at both the pace of instruction and the mere fact that she couldn’t understand the river of words in her Korean language class.

With reminds us that students are human beings and that traumatizing students in the name of test scores and nativist fears will neither speed up learning nor help teachers understand the students they face.

Thank you for reminding us of the humanity of teachers and students. I hope all voters in this state will vote no in November on Question 2. Children deserve better.


Sent to the Arizona Republic Oct. 5, 2002:

Freedom going extinct?

Poor Michael Rutigliano (“Is English going extinct?” Oct. 5). Born in this country, he never learned the language from which his surname is derived.  He went to a school that failed to teach him how freedom of speech includes freedom of language. In the military he never learned the meaning of
”Semper fi.”

Happily, many Americans have been more fortunate. Some speak not only English but also Diné. Some use American Sign Language. Some speak Spanish, the proud second language of America. As capitalists, entrepreneurs also are free to choose languages in attracting customers.  The marketplace decides, based on the choices of individuals who determine what is in their own best self-interest. And yes, some have chosen to remain monolingual even as others have become polyglots. We Americans
revel in our freedom.

Yet there are those who would exert the power of law to enforce a “politically correct” monolingualism and obliterate America’s multilingual heritage. That’s why eternal vigilance, often cited as the cost of
freedom, at times requires us to turn our gaze inward and guard against the poisons that may lurk within our hearts.

-Salvador Gabaldón


Published in the AZ Daily Star Oct. 12, 2002:

Original URL: http://www.azstarnet.com/star/today/21012satletrpckg.html

If Jeff Jacoby were Hispanic, he would cherish this nation’s freedoms.  He would proudly speak English or Spanish or both or neither, accepting the American capitalist ideal that a free people will choose what is in their own best self-interest without governmental coercion. He would laugh at those who feel “humiliated” that entrepreneurs recognize America as the world’s third largest Spanish-speaking nation. He would turn away in disgust at those who would use the power of law to deny parents the option of making educational choices for their children. Being conscious of the harsh labor his people endure, he would feel contempt for anyone who had the temerity to claim that “life is easy for non-English speakers” in America.

It’s not his fault that he is not Hispanic, but he must take full responsibility for failing to honor his father’s wonderful achievement.  No one “forced” his father to learn anything. Any math or English teacher can attest to the impossibility of forcing students to learn against their will. His father chose to learn English, which only adds to the magnitude of his accomplishment. High school attendance in the 1940s was not compulsory. For Jacoby to diminish and distort the truth about his father’s achievement in order to turn the public against bilingual education is detestable. He should be ashamed.—
Sal Gabaldón