[Susan notes: When you catch the media doing something right, be sure to tell them about it,as Steve does.]
Submitted to The MidWeek (Dekalb, Illinois) but not published
Diane Strand's report, "Does bilingual education work in public schools?" is the most complete and accurate report of this complex topic I have read in the media. It also has the added virtue of citing my work, and citing it correctly. There is, however, one statement that needs clarification: Proposition 227, which
dismantled bilingual education in California, did not mandate "sink-or-swim" or total submersion for English learners. It may have turned out that way for many children, ("in effect" as Strand notes) but officially 227 mandated "structured English immersion, " an approach that attempts to make input in English comprehensible but does not allow more than minimal use of the child's first language.
Midweek readers might be interested in knowing that structured English immersion has not resulted in any improvement for English learners in California. A study by WestEd compared progress of English learners from grades 2 to 5 in schools that kept bilingual education with those that dropped it and found no difference. A study by Valentina Bali compared those in the Pasadena district who had bilingual education and were thrust into English structured immersion with those who had previously had only all-English education. Those who had a bilingual background made better gains, showing that the solid education they had in their first language made the English curriculum more comprehensible. These results are consistent with what we find in the research literature in general, as noted by Slavin and Cheung in Strand's article: Students in bilingual programs acquire at least as much English as those in all-English programs and often acquire more.
Also of interest is the fact that Prop. 227 allows
only one year for children to acquire enough English to do work in the mainstream. Yet six years after 227 passed, over a million children are still considered English learners and they have been in school for one year or longer. A recent study done by State of California analysts projects that at the present rate of progress, those who are current considered English
learners will take about 3.6 to 7.4 years before being reclassified as fluent in English. Prop. 227 has clearly failed to keep its promise.
Stephen Krashen, Emeritus Professor, USC