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HELP STOP MYTHS AND MISINFORMATION ABOUT BILINGUAL EDUCATION
The following letters and
articles have been published or have been submitted for
publication to various news media outlets. Follow the
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Sent to The Californian (Monterey County), December 8, 2004:
I wonder if the Californian got
this story right. In “Parents to protest plan to cut bilingual
program,” (Dec 8), the reason for the protest, according to
the Californian, was because parents felt cutting bilingual
education would “hinder the development of their native language.”
There are real benefits to keeping the native language, but the
primary goal of bilingual education is English language development.
A great deal of scientific research shows that proper use of the
native language can accelerate English language development:
Children in bilingual programs generally acquire more English than
those in English-only programs; at worst, they do just as well. I
suspect the Alisal parents know that bilingual education can help
English language development, and I think it is important that
readers of the California also know this.
University of Southern California
Author of: Condemned without a Trial: Bogus Arguments Against Bilingual Education (Heinemann, 1999)
in the Taipei Times, November 21, 2004:
require early English
Taiwan believe that English is crucial for their children’s future,
and also believe schools should start English “as early as
possible.” (“Parents believe in English,” Nov, 16, page 2). But
starting early may not be the best way to help children acquire
Studies show that older children acquire language
skills faster than younger children. Thus, starting later (e.g. at
grade three or grade four instead of kindergarten or grade one) is
more efficient. It also means more time to develop a solid
foundation in Chinese. Studies show that those who have a better
education in the first language make better progress in developing a
is correct when she emphasizes the importance of not cutting back on
Chinese language classes in order to squeeze in more English. I
would not forbid early English but I think it is a mistake to
University of Southern California
Published in the LA Times
November 23, 2004:
“Demagoguery on King/Drew,” November 23 David Lehrer and Joe
Hicks are misinformed. Contrary to Lehrer and Hicks’ statement, the
Oakland School Board did not adopt a policy “to teach Ebonics.” The
policy called for the best possible program for developing
competence in standard English, while also recognizing and
respecting the language variety spoken by many African American
students. (Amended Resolution, January 15, 1997)Also contrary to
Lehrer and Hicks, Proposition 227 has not been a “manifest success.”
Test scores have indeed risen in California for limited English
proficient children but there is no evidence linking this increase
to dismantling bilingual education. Test scores increased for all
students in California, which is typical when new tests are
introduced.Studies comparing schools that kept and dropped bilingual
education show no difference in improvement, and in more carefully
controlled scientific studies bilingual education typically results
in more English than all-English “immersion.”
University of Southern California
Sent to the New
York Times, Dec 9, 2004:
Children of Hispanic Immigrants Continue to Favor English, Study of
Census Finds, Dec. 8
I am pleased that the NY Times
has discovered what scholars working in linguistics and language
education have known for decades: Hispanic-Americans areacquiring
English rapidly. English is clearly the de facto language of the
United States, and this situation is unlikely to change.
Some groups claim that we need to
declare English as our official language in order to “preserve” it.
This is obviously unnecessary.
University of Southern California
to Latino Perspectives (in press) October 2004
My Mother's Spanish
My mother, a gifted
storyteller, nourished a love of language in all her children. Even
before we began school, she would read to us from the Spanish
translations of such classic works as Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand
Leagues under the Sea and Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Mexican music from the radio
filled our house in Los Angeles, and my mother taught us to hear the
words as well as the melody. Books in Spanish and Spanish-language
newspapers filled our home, and she corrected the Spanish we used in
writing letters to our family in Chihuahua.
With the wisdom of a young
mother, she realized that the foundation of a good education is a
love of language. Knowing the importance of English in this
country, she made sure we would learn it. Her contribution to that
end was to give us a love for her speech, the language she knew
Though she studied English
along with us, she had the good sense to realize that literacy is a
skill that crosses language barriers, and she realized that by
enriching our minds with literacy in one language, we'd be better
prepared for a second. If more politicians had as much good sense,
our schools would be better off.
Perhaps inevitably, her two
sons both became bilingual and both translated their love of
language into careers as English teachers. Those of us who teach
language minority students in our nation's public schools see the
evidence for inter-language literacy again and again: students who
are strong readers in their native language invariably become strong
readers in English.
Unfortunately, in the heat
of ideological battles, voters sometimes lose their common sense.
Who would have thought that Arizonans-a people who have come to
respect and admire the culture of our native tribes-would vote for a
law, Proposition 203, that is so harmful to our remaining native
languages? Or that we would abandon the concept of local control of
schools because we fear that the growing use of Spanish in our
communities will somehow threaten English?
As Americans, we should know
our own language better. Beautifully flexible and seductive in its
power, nothing threatens English. It is the language of science,
business, the Internet, popular culture and diplomacy. Anyone who
feels a desperate urge to protect English is badly underestimating
its strength. I have spent my career helping students to discover
the splendor of the English language and the richness of its
literature. I've yet to meet any group of parents who do not want
English for their children.
Parents seeking bilingual
education feel exactly the same way. They want English. The only
difference is that, like my mother, they want Spanish for their
children, too. They are wise enough to see the value of
Yes, Spanish has indeed
become our second language, a language with its own power and
beauty. It is everywhere: in bookstores, banking machines, phone
messages, advertisements, and media of all types. It gives lyrical
(and sometimes perplexing) names to our streets and towns, our
mountains, valleys and rivers. It flavors our foods, colors our
music, deepens our ties to the land. Those who interpret Spanish as
a threat rather than a marvelous resource are the poorer for it.
Sadly, their fear now
impoverishes our system of education. Spanish became a convenient
scapegoat, blamed for the educational struggles of the children of
immigrants. It wasn't the fact that 76% of all such children
received English-only instruction. It wasn't the disparity of
funding between wealthy school districts and poor ones. It wasn't
the lack of teacher training on language acquisition strategies.
No, Spanish was the problem. If we could rid our schools of
Spanish, then all children would acquire English "in a period not
normally intended to exceed one year."
That was the promise. The
reality turned out to be something very different. California
launched its experiment with immersion seven years ago. In the
first few years after their immersion programs began, school
officials bragged about test score improvements. They insisted that
immersion programs were working, and that children were acquiring
English with amazing speed. (Not surprisingly, Arizona's current
Superintendent of Public Instruction is now doing much the same
thing.) Then, slowly, the exuberant reports from California began
to fade away. The latest report barely made the news. What
This past February,
California's legislative analysts released a study based on 2.6
million test results, tracking the length of time that it took for
students from various language backgrounds to become proficient in
English. The students who learned English most quickly were from an
Asian American group, Mandarin speakers, averaging 3.4 years. The
ones who took longest were from another Asian American group, Hmong
speakers, averaging 7.1 years.
The results were exactly what
specialists in language acquisition had been saying all along.
"English in one year" is a fantasy; literacy in two languages is a
treasure. My mom could have told them that.
Letter sent to the
Aug. 28, 2004
Evidence won't support Horne's language policy
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne
defends his department's controversial study showing immigrant
students taught in English-only classes outperformed students taught
bilingually ("English immersion works fine," My Turn, Aug. 19).
Critics noted the study violated basic educational research
principles by failing to control for socio-economic differences or
prior student knowledge, among other problems. The study
consequently mistook initial student differences for program
Unsurprisingly, well-designed research shows immigrant students do
better if they can understand classroom instruction.
For instance, a recent Johns Hopkins University review found most
studies show students do better in bilingual rather than
English-only classrooms. While some studies found no difference,
none found an advantage for English-only.
Academics have a responsibility to bring flaws in the department's
study to public light.
However, the superintendent and his supporters charge that academics
dispute their claims for ideological reasons.
They suggest that a coven of evil professors hides the truth from
the public, while the department grinds out impartial and
politically neutral policy studies.
Glenn Hamer, desperate for a defense,
wrote in reckless disregard for the truth ("Debate is over on
immersion," Letters, Aug. 18). Among other absurdities,
Hamer claimed that university faculty
"benefit financially from bilingual programs."
Under Horne, Arizona has become the most language-restrictionist
state in the nation, and there remains not a shred of evidence that
it's a good idea.
For more information,
Jeff MacSwan, Chandler
The writer is an associate professor in the College of Education at
Arizona State University and a visiting scholar in the Linguistics
Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
version of the above letter sent to the
State schools chief Tom Horne defends his
Department’s recent controversial study showing immigrant
students taught in English-only classes outperformed students
taught bilingually in 2003 (“English
immersion works fine,” My Turn, Arizona Republic,
Critics, including me, noted that
the study violated basic educational research principles by
failing to control for socio-economic differences or prior
student knowledge, among other problems.
The Superintendent offered the following
responses to my three specific criticisms (“Bad
data poison language study,” My Turn,
"The study ignored socio-economic differences."
There is no reason to believe that students in the
English-immersion programs were either poorer or richer than the
other English-language learners.
Actually, there is.
Nationally, children enrolled in bilingual
education classes are two times more likely to be enrolled at a
school with lower socio-economic status than children enrolled
in English-only classes (U.S.
Department of Education, 1997, pp. 12-15). Because we know
independently that children from schools with higher
socio-economic status do better on tests than children from
schools with lower socio-economic, this omission privileges
students in immersion classes for the purposes of the study.
Because of its significance in the present
circumstances and in social science research quite generally,
the omission marks a fatal flaw in the study’s design.
"The study ignored relevant background
knowledge." Even before I began enforcing the initiative,
students had to show some knowledge of English to qualify
for a bilingual waiver. The bilingual program therefore had
an advantage in "background knowledge," but still scored
worse in every subject at every grade level.
Students who know less English are most likely to
be found in bilingual education classes, as these students are
more likely to be negatively impacted by incomprehensible
subject matter instruction. One sees this, for instance, in
California’s language testing (CELDT) data over the last three
years. How this tendency would interact with the pre-screening
effects Horne mentions here is simply unknown. We do not know
how bilingual education students in this group would score, on
average, on a test of English, and we do not know how immersion
students would score.
In addition, we do not know for any grade level
noted in the Department’s study how long students had been in
U.S. schools. Because students in bilingual education classes in
the higher grades are likely to be new arrivals, this factor
would once again cause artificial inflation in the scores of the
immersion students in the study.
Failing to take these important initial
differences into account, which might independently explain the
reported gains, no reliable or meaningful conclusions can be
made from the study’s findings.
"The study confused classroom-level and
[sic]." For the period
at issue, bilingual-program students after the first year
typically moved on to a "transitional bilingual" classroom.
Therefore, the higher achievers among bilingual-program
students, who MacSwan feared were
being credited to English immersion, were actually analyzed as
part of the bilingual program. English-immersion students still
performed better in every subject at every grade level, as much
as 1.5 years ahead.
Respectfully, I believe the Superintendent may
have missed my point here.
Academic programs consist of sequences of
classroom placements, moving from one grade to the next. In an
immersion program, classroom placements do not differ from year
to year with regard to the issue of language of instruction; in
each classroom and at every grade level, the teacher only speaks
In a bilingual program, however, students begin
in a classroom in which considerable time is spent in the native
language, providing students with a rich understanding of
academic subject matter in the language they know best while
they learn English. As bilingual education students move on from
one grade to the next, more and more English is used in the
classroom until the students’ native language is entirely phased
If you look at classroom placement data for the
02-03 academic year, as the Department’s study did, you do not
know for any given student who indicates that he or she was
enrolled in an all-English classroom whether the student might
have been enrolled in a bilingual classroom in the previous year
– and hence, while the student would not be in a
bilingual education classroom, he or she would be
in a bilingual education program. Because bilingual
education students are transitioned to all-English classrooms
once academic and linguistic benchmarks have been met, the best
performing bilingual education students enter all-English
classrooms more and more as the grade levels progress.
By skimming off the higher bilingual education
program students’ scores and treating them as immersion program
scores, the study would once again artificially inflate the
averages for immersion students. This is likely the reason we
see reported gains growing so dramatically for immersion
students in the study as the grade levels increase in the
In this sense, the study confuses
classroom-level and program-level descriptions. Again, a fatal
Horne also touches on the matter of the
Spanish-background students whose comparisons were not mentioned
in the Department’s original
“When a subtest was done for Spanish-speaking
students only,” the Superintendent said, “it still showed
English-immersion students ahead in every subject at every grade
level, with 18 of 21 measures statistically significant at the
Actually, among Spanish-speaking students, 16 of
21 measures were statistically significant (3 at the .05 level,
13 at the .001 level), not 18. In grades 2-5, most relevant to
the anti-bilingual law, only 7 of 12 comparisons were
statistically significant. In 5 of these 7 instances, the
reported advantage for immersion students was “one month”
measured in terms of grade equivalence.
In view of these short-term differences, other
important background factors neglected by the study are that
students must wait one month before they can be waived into a
bilingual program – giving immersion program students a
one-month head start – and the six-week scheduling variance
which the state allows for schools to administer the Stanford 9.
Given these numerous limitations, which strongly
advantage immersion students in the Department’s study, it is
remarkable that bilingual education students appear to do as
well as the immersion students in so many instances.
However, for me, the interest in the
Spanish-background student scores stemmed very much from their
stunning absence from the Department’s
announcement about the study. The authors of the
study were very clear in suggesting that the
Spanish-background comparisons were more informative than the
other measures because the groups were less heterogeneous; yet
the Department chose to present to the media the set of scores
that would make its policies appear more successful.
The Superintendent’s column devotes considerable
space to an attempt to discredit me and other academics who have
been publicly critical of his policies and his claims about
educational research on this topic.
“Some highly ideological pro-bilingual
professors don't like to face up to scientific results,” Horne
wrote. “Most professors are conscientious, but a few are highly
This statement was quite mild compared to a
letter published a day earlier by Glenn
is over on English immersion,” Arizona Republic, Aug.
18), which charged that objections to immersion come from
“professors and researchers who benefit financially from
bilingual programs” – a total falsehood, of course. (See “More
public misinformation on bilingual education” for other
comments on Hamer’s letter.)
It is remarkable that the Superintendent and his
supporters charge academics with ideological bias, and expect
the public to believe that the Arizona Department of Education –
a political organization headed by an elected official who
campaigned for office – is driven by the facts and true
research – albeit internally-conducted, substantially written by
an Associate Superintendent who served as one of the leaders of
the campaign to enact the anti-bilingual law, and for the
primary purpose of evaluating its own policies.
Like it or not, academics simply have a
responsibility to bring flaws such as those noted in the
Department’s study to the public’s attention. Neglecting to do
so would be a gravely unethical disservice.
In a better world, the Department of Education
would work collaboratively with researchers at the universities
to produce meaningful evaluations of the state’s education
policies, to the greatest extent possible. We remain willing to
work cooperatively and collaboratively with the ADE on these
In the meanwhile, we are best informed by
scientifically designed research which, unlike the Department’s
recent study, controls for potentially confounding pre-existing
Unsurprisingly, this body of research shows that
English learners do better if they can understand classroom
instruction, using the language they know best.
recent comprehensive review by Robert
Slavin and Alan Cheung at the Johns Hopkins University,
completed just last December, makes precisely this point.
Slavin and Cheung found that most
methodologically sound studies show students do better in
bilingual rather than English-only classrooms. While some
studies they reviewed found no difference, none found an
advantage for English-only.
another recent study, Jay Greene used a statistical
technique known as meta-analysis to synthesize research on this
topic. Greene concluded that “bilingual programs are effective
at increasing standardized test scores measured in English” in
comparison to less effective all-English alternatives.
It’s important to note that
Slavin, Cheung and Greene are not historically associated
with the field of language minority education, so it becomes
much more difficult to label them as “highly ideological
pro-bilingual professors.” In fact, Greene is now a Senior
Fellow at the
Manhattan Institute, a privately-funded conservative
One wonders how the Superintendent would explain
the reluctance of these researchers “to face up to
The so-called “pro-bilingual” position is
actually quite similar to the
position of George W. Bush on this matter:
support a concept I call English-plus, insisting on English
proficiency but recognizing the invaluable richness that
other languages and cultures brings to our nation of
immigrants. In Texas, the Spanish language enhances and
helps define our state’s history. My fundamental priority is
results. Whether a school uses an immersion program or a
bilingual program, whichever effectively teaches children to
read and comprehend English as quickly as possible, I will
support. The standard is English literacy and the goal is
equal opportunity – all in an atmosphere where every
heritage is respected and celebrated.
Horne’s position makes Bush, our highly
conservative Republican president, appear to be a leftist
radical. Yet he characterizes the rest of us as ideologues.
Many members of the public do not understand how
extremist the policies of the current Superintendent actually
are. Tom Horne has made it impossible for parents to choose any
programmatic alternative to the all-English immersion approach.
The waiver provision of Proposition 203, under his
administration, has been essentially disposed with, due to his
peculiar understanding of the waiver qualification rules.
While Superintendent Horne insists that all
English learners should be in immersion and none of them in
bilingual education, the so-called “pro-bilingual” position
simply asks for diversity of program options, befitting local
resources and circumstances.
Tom Horne has made Arizona the most regressive
and language-restrictionist state in
the nation, and there remains not a shred of evidence that it’s
a good idea.
The public deserves a Department of Education
that will be guided by science, not the divisive English-only
ideology which appears to underlie every move of the current
The writer is an associate professor in the College of Education
at Arizona State University and a visiting scholar in the
Linguistics Department at the Massachusetts Institute of
Sent to the Arizona Republic August 18, 2004: More Public Misinformation
on Bilingual Education
Glenn Hamer’s recent letter (“Debate is over on English immersion,” Aug.
18, Arizona Republic) makes several assertions in an effort to defend
the Department of Education’s claim that its study shows English
Language Learners benefit from the state’s mandated immersion program.
Because Hamer has no apparent ability to make his point rationally, he
presents false statements about me in an effort to damage my reputation
“Every study of student achievement has concluded that the best method
to educate non-native speakers of English is through immersion in the
language,” writes Hamer. “English immersion leads to better success in
the United States.”
Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, in a recent
comprehensive review of the scientific literature on this question,
Robert Slavin and Alan Cheung identified studies which used
methodologically sound research methods to investigate this question.
Most of the studies Slavin and Cheung identified favored bilingual
approaches over immersion approaches; while some found no difference,
none of them showed an advantage for immersion over bilingual education.
That’s right. None. A far cry from “every study.”
It’s important to note, too, that Robert Slavin, the lead author of this
report, is not historically associated with the field of minority
language education. He is a Research Scientist affiliated with the
Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed At Risk (RESPAR)
at the John Hopkins University, and is an Advisor to the Nation on
Science, Engineering and Medicine.
another recent report, Jay Greene used a statistical technique known as
meta-analysis to synthesize research on this topic. Greene concluded
that “bilingual programs are effective at increasing standardized test
scores measured in English” in comparison to less effective all-English
Again, a far cry from Hamer’s uninformed claim that research on these
topics indicates that “the best method to educate non-native speakers of
English is through immersion.”
Like Slavin, Greene is not otherwise associated with this field of
research. Formerly an Assistant Professor of Government at the
University of Texas at Austin, Greene is currently a Senior Research
Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a privately-funded conservative
“Despite the facts,” Hamer continues, “there remain objections from
professors and researchers who benefit financially from bilingual
programs. Their claims are as credible as tobacco companies trumpeting
the safety of cigarettes. … Disregarding the evidence, a long-time
member of the bilingual education establishment, Professor Jeff McSwan
[sic], continues his assault on the immersion programs that work ...”
These statements, of course, are ludicrous. I receive no financial
rewards that depend on what point of view I take on this issue, and I do
not now and never have receive benefits, financial or otherwise, from
I’m actually not “a long-time member of the bilingual education
establishment,” whatever that might mean. I only finished graduate
school seven years ago, and was a high school ESL teacher before that!
contrast to the consensus of evidence on this topic, the Department of
Education has produced a study asserting an advantage for students
enrolled in immersion whose methods violate the most basic design
principles of good social science research. As such, the study is
meaningless and its conclusions are uninformative.
it does fit well with the English-only ideology that underlies the ban
on bilingual education, and that’s what appears to count most for the
Glenn Hamers of our state.
Rather than lead Arizona’s immigrant students into a better world of
all-English classrooms, the Department has enacted an extremist
interpretation of the law passed by voters, making viable and defensible
alternatives to English immersion impossible.
extremism and ideology are not behind these policy decisions, what is?
About the author:
Jeff MacSwan is an Associate Professor in the College of Education at
Arizona State University, and a Visiting Scholar in the Linguistics
Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Sent to the East Valley
Tribune (Arizona), August 9, 2004
Re: PC crowd’s fears about bilingual education’s
necessity unfounded, August 8
The Tribune quotes the Lexington Institute as saying
that after bilingual education was eliminated in 1998 California, test
scores went up: in 2003, 43 percent of English learners were “early
advanced” or better, up from 34 percent in 2002 and 25 percent in
The Tribune needs to take a more critical look at its
sources. The gains were very modest.
The 2001 to 2002 jump was based on children who took
the exam both years! Boasting about such gains is like boasting that
children in second grade did slightly better on a test of reading than
they did when they were in first grade. Many of these children had been
in school for some time before taking the test in 2001 and did not start
out the year at zero English proficiency; in fact 82% scored at the low
intermediate level or higher in 2001.
Based on the 2003 results, the State of California
legislative analyst office projected that English learners in California
schools take 3.6 to 7.4 years to become fluent in English. Proposition
227, California’s equivalent of Arizona’s Proposition 203, promised that
English learners would become fluent in one year. Clearly this did not
Most important, there was no scientific comparison
between those in all-English programs and those in bilingual education.
The recent Arizona data is also completely
unscientific. There was no consideration of previous competence in
English (students with lower English proficiency are typically placed in
bilingual classes), no control for poverty, and no inspection of
methodology. Even if the Arizona data were valid, the results are
suspect. Far fewer children were tested in bilingual programs, and in
previous years, children in bilingual programs in Arizona outscored
those in immersion; this has been ignored.
Scientifically controlled studies have been done,
however, and they show that children in bilingual education acquire at
least as much English as those in immersion programs, and usually
It is not just the “PC crowd” that supports bilingual
education: It is all those who have carefully examined the scientific
Sent to Education Week August
The article on Arizona's
mandatory training for all teachers in English immersion (July 28, p.
10) failed to recognize the deep controversy surrounding this issue and
the potential harm for ELL students. Fifteen clock-hours of training for
an SEI Endorsement is insufficient to prepare teachers to work
effectively with ELLs. Furthermore, the SEI Endorsement undermines the
state's current ESL Endorsement which consists of 18 units of
college-level coursework in addition to foreign-language study. While
the state is not officially abolishing the ESL endorsement, it will be
rendered obsolete as the SEI endorsement is all that will be required
for the legal placement of an ELL student.
This leads to the other major
concern of ELL student advocates. In the article, Ms. Dugan, Associate
Superintendent for Academic Achievement, and co-chair of the Proposition
203 campaign, declared "We believe all students should have access to
all teachers" and that "as soon as kids learn the vocabulary and are
taught language early on, they should be able to mainstream as quickly
The contradiction in Ms. Dugan's
statement should be apparent. Under the Arizona plan, every single
classroom in the state will be a legal placement for an ELL student.
Thus, there will be no classrooms for ELLs to be "mainstreamed" into,
because they will already be in mainstream classrooms, taught by
mainstream teachers with only a minimal amount of training.
Arizona's plan is an attempt to
legally return to the one-size-fits-all sink-or-swim education that was
declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Lau vs. Nichols.
The impetus for the training
policy stems from the Flores v. Arizona lawsuit, in which a federal
judge found ELL education in the state to be lacking in several areas,
including the qualifications of teachers of ELL students. Arizona's
plan, however, ensures that ELL students will be taught by teachers with
less training, not more. For this reason, the lawyers for the plaintiffs
in the Flores v. Arizona case have expressed their opposition and have
recently filed a legal challenge to state's new policy.
Wayne E. Wright, Assistant
Professor, University of Texas, San Antonio, College of Education and
Human Development, Division of Bicultural-Bilingual Studies
The letter below was sent to
the Arizona Daily Star August 6, 2004
In Tom Horne's odd response ("TUSD
isn't more liberal…,"Aug. 6, 2004) to Lupita Peńa's guest editorial in
the Star, he insinuates that the TUSD Board and administration have been
guilty of "waiver abuse" but have now "represented" being in
compliance. TUSD has always followed the law in approving thousands of
waivers each year for English learners, many of whom are ten or older.
Proficiency has nothing to do with such waivers. Students younger than
ten years of age simply need qualifying oral scores, not the full oral,
reading and writing proficiency Ms. Peńa mentions. Doesn't Horne know
his own rules?
What makes TUSD more "liberal"
in approving waivers is its policy of granting every qualified request.
Placing such high regard for parental rights is commendable. More
districts should try it. If anything is abusive, it is the
self-righteous tone and discredited "studies" that Horne uses in
attacking TUSD and the thoughtful parents who choose bilingual education
for their children. He owes them all an apology.
Peter Gómez, Tucson, AZ
Sent to the NY Times, July 14, 2004
Samuel G. Freedman found “two dozen” parents who criticized bilingual
education in a vaguely described meeting and completely ignored the
well-established research supporting it (“Latino parents decry bilingual
education,” July 14). Numerous studies show that parents of minority
language children support the principles underlying bilingual education,
most linguistic minorities voted against anti-bilingual education
initiatives, and the research consistently shows that bilingual programs
help children acquire English.
His article is an outrage.
University of Southern California
Sent to the Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, CA:
changes in SR's bilingual education program
This is the same ol' argument. With 90% of California's English
learners in English immersion finishing year six of Prop. 227's "one
year of intensive English immersion", they are still talking about the
"spirit of Prop. 227". If P227 had actually worked immigrant parents
and teachers would be clamoring for English only instruction. It didn't
work, but conservative school board members still want to force it down
Jaime Escalante stated in the 1998 pro Proposition 227 ballot argument,
"We give choice to parents not administrators". This was the spirit of
Prop. 227. It was believed that parents would see that it would take
only one year to become English fluent. That hasn't happened.
Parents have seen the 1998 English fluency rate move from 7% to todays
level of 7%. In 1998, Prop. 227 proponents called it a 93% failure
rate, today they don't mention it.
Parents have seen that English learners have fallen further behind in
every tested subject at every grade level on the California Standardized
tests. The achievement gap has widened since Prop. 227 placed 90% of
California's English learners into its English immersion program.
Parents have seen the number of non English fluent students rise from
806,419 in 1998 when Prop. 227 passed to today's level of 1,193,239
students. The number hasn't grown because over one million students
have just arrived into our classrooms since the beginning of the last
school year. Students have repeated the one year over and over again.
The fact is that Prop. 227 has failed. The "spirit of Prop. 227" is all
that is left and it hurts children and doesn't advance our community.
Far West Region, League of United Latin American Citizens
LULAC is the nation’s oldest and largest Latino civil rights
organization with members throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.
Sent to the Los Angeles Daily News,
Feb. 29, 2004:
“Sun may set on English language” (Feb 27) was excellent, but the
headline was wrong. The percentage of native speakers of English in the
world is declining, but the dominance of English as an international
language is growing. In 1997 95% of scientific papers cited in the
Science Citation Index were written in English, up from 83% in 1977.
English is the international language of aviation. Seventyfive percent
of all websites are in English. When Israel talks to Japan, when Korea
talks to Brazil, when Germany talks to Ethiopia, it is in English. The
sun is not setting on English.
Sent to the Taipei
Times, Feb 23, 2004:
Chen Shu-Chin ("English is a blight on young kids," February 17) is
correct: Starting English too early and emphasizing "English-only"
education for very young children can crowd out other valuable learning
But there is another very good reason to reduce emphasis on English in
the very early years. Starting later and doing less is actually more
efficient for acquiring English: Studies consistently show that older
children are significantly faster than younger children in second
language acquisition. In addition, a solid foundation in the first
language makes a strong contribution to second language development:
Those who are more literate in their first language acquire literacy in
the second language more quickly, and those who know more, thanks to a
good education in their first language, understand more of what they
read and hear in their second language, which speeds acquisition.
Ironically, "less in more" in this situation. Starting later and
devoting more time to developing a strong foundation in Chinese is the
best thing Taiwan can do to promote English language development. It is
also the best thing Taiwan can do ton ensure quality education for
Taiwanese children and the development of the first language. It is a
win-win situation. Premature and excessive English is lose-lose, bad for
both English and academic development.
An important additional point: In situations in which English is crucial
for daily life, as in the US, non-English speaking children should begin
English as a second language (ESL) classes the first day they enter
school. But the most effective programs also include a great deal of
education in the child's primary language. Research shows that these
programs teach English at least as well, and usually better than,
all-day English programs.
I presented a paper on this topic ("Dealing with English Fever") at the
International Symposium sponsored by the English Teachers'
Association/ROC last November in Taipei. It can be found on my website,
http://www.sdkrashen.com and in the conference proceedings,
published by the Crane Publishing Company in Taipei.
Letter sent to the LA Times,
February 21, 2004:
Re: When English Isn’t First, February 21, 2004. It is interesting to
see that after discovering that English only instruction via Proposition
227 has been shown to be a dismal failure two letters to the Times can
only cite that they don’t like the Spanish language.
Instructing children to be English fluent takes understanding in
academics. The most recent study by the Legislative Analyst’s Office
states that English only instruction takes 3.6 to 7.4 years. Prop. 227
claimed that English immersion instruction should "not normally" exceed
one year. This has been shown to be an empty claim.
Citing ATM machines who afford adults to bank in Spanish has nothing to
do with children not becoming fluent in English in one year. The
“American Dream” can be achieved with academics which are lost to
children who are giving up science, math and social studies to study
flash cards for 3.6 to 7.4 years. In the end, all children speak
English, but those who studied in a bilingual classroom will be able to
compete for the “American dream,” the others will be able to ask how
the lawn should be cut.
Education Advisor, National Far West Region,
League of United Latin American Citizens
Published in the Los Angeles Times, Feb
The legislative analyst's office reported
that, according to projections, English learners in California schools
take 3.6 to 7.4 years to become fluent in English. This analysis is
based on tests administered in 2001 and 2002, long after California
voted to dismantle bilingual education and require English immersion by
passing Proposition 227.
Today, nearly all English learners in school are in all-English
programs. Proposition 227 stated that English immersion instruction
should "not normally" exceed one year. The report shows conclusively
that this didn't happen. Proposition 227 did not keep its promise. Not
School of Education
Letter sent to
several newspapers Feb. 14, 2004:
English immersion has failed
Last week I addressed the Santa Barbara School District Board of
Trustees offering my and LULAC’s services in addressing the needs of
minority and Latino students. This district eliminated bilingual
education in 1997 and still complains that students are not advancing
because they have dismal English language skills. As I walked to my
seat, a friend whispered to me that the board members expressions were
that of not being interested in listening once again to something they
didn’t believe in.
Learning “English in English” sounded so good. The group “English for
the Children” capitalized on a public who was ready to believe that
“bilingual” meant “Spanish only” instead of “two languages” and
marshaled the forces to support the political conservative agenda.
English for the Children wrote and passed Proposition 227 in 1998. In
the process they called proponents of bilingual instruction “human
vampires,” “cultist,” and “educational terrorist.” In turn, proponents
cited research which was always countered with more name calling.
Why did supporters of bilingual instruction argue its merits? The
English only movement told the public it was because we had a financial
interest in not teaching English. Bilingual education supporters were
said to have a desire to hold back the new immigrants and promote
The truth be said, these new found friends of the immigrant child have
not stood by the side of the same children they claimed to advance. On
the other hand, many teachers who had been working to educate immigrant
students were forced to practice flash cards of high frequency words
instead of history, science and algebra. Supporters of bilingual
education knew that 70% of the children who were not fluent in English
were in English only classes from well before Proposition 227 came
around. The dismal failure of English immersion was being projected on
the 30% of the students who were receiving instruction in a language
they could understand while they were learning the English language.
Since the passage of Proposition 227 entire school districts have
officially called for implementation of the “ban” on bilingual
education. The word “ban” does not appear in the legal text, in fact
the approved law gives the right to the immigrant parents to select
bilingual education without interference from the school district.
Today only 10% of non English fluent students are allowed to enroll
their children in some form of bilingual instruction in California.
In the seven years that followed the passage of Proposition 227’s “one
year of intensive English immersion” the public has been told about its
success on a yearly basis. The same promoters took their law to
Arizona, Massachusetts and Colorado claiming the overwhelming success in
California. Funding for bilingual instruction in California has been
cut, the State Board of Education denied Reading First federal funds to
school districts who upheld the parents rights to offer bilingual and
the 10% of the students enrolled in bilingual instruction have been
blamed for any failures of the entire body of students who total more
that 1.6 million this academic year alone.
No teacher has been sued under the Proposition 227 provision but Santa
Ana School District Trustee Nativo Lopez was recalled after facing a
group led by the writer of Proposition 227 because he supported
bilingual education. I, myself had my teaching credential audited four
days after defending parents rights to choose bilingual education under
the law for their children to the State Board of Education. Ron Unz
also debated his point of view at the same meeting. He was introduced
simply as “Ron” by the State Board President when taking the microphone.
The last month has seen the dramatic manipulations come to light:
As reported in the Ventura County Star on January 24, 2004 in “Bilingual
classes better than English-only approach” researchers at Johns Hopkins
University have reported on studies conducted over 30 years. It found
that after 17 studies on reading in the elementary grades, all showed
that bilingual programs positively affected reading performance.
On February 13, 2004 the Reading First federal funds were opened to
immigrant students who are in a district who offers bilingual education
only after a lengthy law suit brought to the Superior Court of
California in San Francisco. This will open up 133 million dollars to
school districts who follow the law and allow parental choice.
And finally: A report from the California Department of Education
release on February 12, 2004 now states that it take students 3.6 to 7.4
years to become English fluent.
Students have been punished by policy makers who search for power by
attacking immigrants. Students, parents, teachers, and school districts
have been intimidated by lack of funds and ridiculed or recalled if they
supported bilingual instruction.
It is time to advance our students:
Bilingual education does work. It takes more than one year, but this
was a time limit set by political opponents. We have found that “one
year of intensive English immersion” also takes more than one year, it
takes 3.6 to 7.4 years. In the seven years since Proposition 227 passed
only 7% of students have managed to become English fluent each year. A
93% failure rate will not ready our population to meet the global
economy and cannot be blamed on the 10% student population in bilingual
So what’s on the agenda now?
The group who passed Proposition 187 ten years ago now want to bring it
back. Calling the new initiative “Save Our State” or “S.O.S.” they
will once again stereotype all immigrant children as illegal and demand
they not study in public instruction.
Proposition 227 was a fallacy. English immersion has failed and it took
seven years for the media and public to catch up with what bilingual
education supporters had said all along.
On October 26, 2001, (just 40 days after 9-11), Ron Unz, the writer and
promoter of Proposition 227 showed his contempt for bilingual education
supporters in an opinion article published in the conservative National
Review. Ron Unz comparing himself as bilingual education’s “personal
bin Laden” wrote:
“A few weeks ago, Americans witnessed the enormous devastation that a
small handful of fanatically committed individuals can wreak upon
society. Perhaps it is now time for ordinary Americans to be willing to
take a stand against those similarly tiny groups of educational
terrorists in our midst, whose disastrous policies are enforced upon us
not by bombs or even by knives, but simply by their high-pitched voices.
Americans must remain silent no longer.”
This man and his movement have shaped school policy in too many states
for too many years. This movement should be stopped now. The English
only movement has been a fallacy and the people who applaud its value
have set back the future of a generation only to promote their own
Oxnard School District Board Trustee
Education Advisor, Far West Region, LULAC
Sent to the LA Times, Feb. 14, 2004:
According to the LA Times ("A
small problem growing,"Feb. 12) because of nutritional deficiencies,
North Koreans are not as tall as South Koreans. The North Korean prime
minister has recommended stretching exercises for children as a means of
making them taller. He must have been inspired by No Child Left Behind
and the National Reading Panel. Their approach is also to stretch
children by artificial (and painful) means. Children of poverty read
less well than children of high-income families because they have less
access to print. Instead of providing more print (e.g. better school and
public libraries in high-poverty areas), No Child Left Hehind prescribes
(and demands) skill-building: e.g. phonics, vocabulary, and reading
comprehension exercises. Just like stretching, it is painful, and just
like stretching, it doesn’t work. Korean children need better
nutrition. Children of poverty with little access to books need better
access to books. There is no substitute.
Saying that we must insist on skills because children just won’t read is
like saying hungry children just won’t eat. But studies clearly show
that given interesting and comprehensible reading material, nearly all
children find reading pleasant and eventually read.
Published in the Arizona Republic Jan. 31, 2004:
Immigrants are learning English
Contrary to the letter of Leslie Davis of Tolleson in The Republic Jan.
23, recent immigrants to the United States are learning English. The
recent census demonstrates this clearly.
According to census data, immigrants from all language groups are
learning English so fast, in fact, that within a mere two generations,
mother tongues are utterly abandoned in favor of English (thereby
depriving America of an important resource in international business and
Many people who want to learn English often have trouble finding a way
to do it. Literacy Volunteers of Maricopa County typically have a long
waiting list for ESOL (English as a Second or Other Language)
instruction. If Davis is really concerned about the learning of English,
she should call Literacy Volunteers at (602) 274-3430 or visit them at
their Web site (www.literacy volunteers-maricopa.org.)
A new training cycle begins in March. Become a volunteer and make a
difference. - K.S. Johnson, Phoenix
Sent to the San
Franicisco Chronicle, January 30, 2004:
remedial plan falling shy of goal Many new students still lack
proficiency in English, math," January 29
The Chronicle suggests that the number of "unprepared" freshman at CSU
is linked to new approaches to teaching reading, and these approaches
were responsible for a drop in test scores. The Chronicle is
misinformed. California's fourth-graders placed last in reading in the
US in 1992, but this was not because of new methodology: Language arts
became "literature-based" in California in 1987: there was not enough
time to significantly impact tests given in 1992. Also, Jeff McQuillan's
analysis shows that reading levels in California were low long before
1987. Finally, even though the new approach has been long purged,
replaced by intensive skills program, there has been no increase in
California's reading scores.
We have ignored the likely cause of California's problem. Studies show
that when children have more access to books, they read more, and when
children read more they read better. Studies also show that school
library quality is related to reading scores. California has the worst
school libraries in the US, and our public libraries rank near the
bottom. The new state budget allots 70 cents per child for school
libraries; the national average is $20. Our children read poorly because
they have little access to reading material.
Published in the Arizona Republic Jan.
Language bias shows intolerance Jan. 27, 2004 12:00 AM
Regarding the Friday letter to the editor "Our Language is English:
My ancestors, too, came from another country but I do not share the
letter writer's intolerant attitude.
First of all, she needs to get over the past. It is 2004 and soon
non-Hispanics will be a minority in this state. Like her parents, many
Hispanics came here many generations ago and their language is here as
part of their culture.
My two English-speaking sons hear Spanish every day and they are
constantly inquiring about the words. They are becoming bilingual, and
to me that is a beautiful thing.
Also, many of the Spanish signs are probably created by business owners
who choose to advertise in Spanish because it is their right.
I think it is obnoxious to assume that Spanish speakers came here
illegally, and it is this type of intolerant attitude that creates
hatred among us.
-Tammy Nagel, Phoenix
Sent to the Ventura County
Star, January 24, 2004:
Bilingual classes better than English-only approach (January 24,
2004, Kathleen Wilson)
Bilingual education has once again been proven through research that it
is superior to the English immersion method. This comes as no surprise
to bilingual educators, but politics has dictated to the contrary.
Learning “English in English” seemed to sound so good and the group
“English for the Children” capitalized on misgivings that the Spanish
language is not welcomed by the majority of voters. English for the
Children wrote and passed Proposition 227 in 1998. In the process they
called proponents of bilingual instruction “human vampires,” “cultist,”
and “educational terrorist.” In turn, proponents cited research which
was always countered with more name calling.
Six years after passing, only 7% of English Language Learners have
become English fluent. Proposition 227 stated that students would
become English fluent after “one year of intensive English immersion.”
This has not happened.
Today researchers at Johns Hopkins University have reported on studies
conducted over 30 years. It found that after 17 studies on reading in
the elementary grades, all showed that bilingual programs positively
affected reading performance. The answer is not more research. The
answer is to embrace the academic methodology which has proven to be
Currently we see districts in Ventura County which are making excuses
that there are not enough bilingual teachers after the same districts
released these bilingual teachers to follow the failed status quo of
English immersion. Other districts have heard cries that children have
been forced into bilingual instruction from such groups as the Ventura
County Grand Jury.
It is time to embrace the proven method of bilingual education. Let’s
not leave 93% of our students behind for a seventh year.
Ventura County Chapter of the California Association for Bilingual
Published in the Arizona Republic Jan. 22, 2004:
Clarity, not English, is classroom key
In an article
"Hispanics upset by teacher's discipline" in Local on Jan. 17,
Arizona Superintendent of Schools Tom Horne was indirectly quoted as
saying it is correct for a teacher to insist that students speak only
English in class but it is wrong to hit them.
There is nothing in any education law or spirit of law that says that
children may not or should not speak their native language while trying
to comprehend and respond to instruction in English. The law purely
speaks to the language of the teachers and their materials.
Children should be encouraged to be active, engaged learners who help
each other make sense of the instruction in any language.
By discouraging students from using their native language to comprehend
instruction, teachers are asking for students to shut down as learners
completely. That is not in the best interest of anyone!
Julie G. Neff-Encinas
The writer is a middle school teacher.
Published in the Arizona
Republic, Jan. 20, 2004 12:00 AM
A sad return to bias over Spanish
I now understand why my father wouldn't teach Spanish to my siblings and
He went to school in Texas in the 1950s and 1960s and he would recount
stories of being punished for speaking Spanish. I chose to learn Spanish
in high school and college because that part of my heritage was deemed
unworthy. My father's teachers made him feel embarrassed for being
I now have a position similar to the Scottsdale teacher who "hit" her
students for speaking Spanish ("Teacher faces firing for hitting
children," Republic, Friday). How sad that confusion over Proposition
203 and English immersion has resulted in a return to the school days of
is a NABE Affiliate Member
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