State English-only policies are ineffective
Jul. 15, 2006
The Republic's Robert Robb believes the state's ban on using immigrant
children's native language in the classroom, an outgrowth of Proposition 203, is
promising ("Lessons in language," Opinions, July 7).
"Voters deserve a good-faith effort to implement the policy they adopted,"
Robb wrote, "and thus far they have not gotten it."
Actually, they have.
Indeed, state schools chief Tom Horne campaigned on a promise to implement a
vigorous English-only interpretation of Proposition 203, and he has done so.
The approach seeks to teach children English within a year so they'll be able to
understand school lessons taught in English alone.
But a study by Arizona State University researchers, including myself, found the
approach failed to achieve this proficiency goal for 89 percent of the state's
That's hardly a promising result.
In addition, in recent years, three independent comprehensive reviews of
relevant scientific evidence have appeared in peer-reviewed journals. Each found
that children taught using their native language as well as English had higher
academic achievement than those taught using English alone.
That's a more thorough review of evidence than one can find for many
well-accepted medical procedures.
But rather than consult such sources, Robb tried to squeeze bits and pieces of
evidence supporting the state's extremist English-only policies out of two
recent think-tank reports that actually have nothing to do with language of
Robb suggests schools serving English learners should receive funding only if
they are "certified by the superintendent as being Proposition 203 compliant."
But it is too often conveniently forgotten that Proposition 203 actually
requires bilingual education under a parental waiver program, an option
essentially unavailable under Horne's implementation.
Robb and others should keep this point in mind when relying on what "voters
deserve" as justification for the state's extremist language education policies.
-Jeff MacSwan, Chandler
The writer is associate professor of education in the Mary Lou Fulton College of
Education at Arizona State University.