Sunday, June 8, 2014

LA Times editorial and some reactions re bilingual education and SB 1174

" Over the last 16 years, academic research has largely found that good bilingual programs are just as effective at teaching English skills, and often slightly better at it, than classes that immerse students in English."
This is better coverage than we usually get. But the research 16 years ago was quite positive about bilingual education. And too bad the LA Times is not aware of the McField and McField study. We need to do a better job of spreading the word.  Amazing that they published the ignorant Chris Daley "flat earth" letter.

A lot has changed since 1998, when Proposition 227 all but wiped out bilingual instruction in California public schools. The matter is due for reconsideration; a bill that passed the state Senate last week would allow that to happen.
SB 1174, by state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), would place a measure on the November 2016 ballot to repeal Proposition 227 and allow local school districts to decide whether they want to bring back bilingual education rather than continue with the current system, which aims to move students toward full-time English use as quickly as possible.
Over the last 16 years, academic research has largely found that good bilingual programs are just as effective at teaching English skills, and often slightly better at it, than classes that immerse students in English. Along the way, they also teach students literacy in their native language.
Another reason to consider bilingual education: Shortly after Proposition 227 passed, testing and accountability requirements were imposed on schools. The academic skills of students, including those who aren't fluent in English, are now measured every year. That means that if bilingual education is failing students, that failure will become clear quickly, and schools will face potential disciplinary measures if they don't fix the problem.
A third factor: The globalization of the economy means that bilingualism confers a significant advantage in the work world.
Yet there were good reasons Proposition 227 passed. Bilingual education is more expensive. The state suffered continual shortages of qualified bilingual teachers. Worse, bilingual education was often poorly done. It's important to consider the academic studies that have shown slightly better results for bilingual classes, but remember that those studies involved top-notch programs with outstanding teachers. California's public schools seldom came close to the model, and before Proposition 227, thousands of students were handed diplomas without ever having mastered English.
To persuade voters, supporters of bilingual education will have to demonstrate that they can overcome these obstacles.
Dual immersion programs, a subset of bilingual education in which students from different language backgrounds study in two languages, gaining fluency in both, have often succeeded and are increasingly popular. Such programs exist in California, but they have been small and have involved populations of motivated parents and students. Bringing them up to scale so that they work statewide might be difficult.
These are debates worth having, and SB 1174 would provide the forum for them.
Readers React: Bringing back bilingual education – LETTERS published in the LA Times, June 8
It's about time we reconsider the research that tells us that a transitional bilingual program leads to fluency in two languages. ("Is bilingual education worth bringing back?," Editorial, June 5)
Let's not fall into the trap of testing a subject in English that has been taught in the primary language. Let's not expect a child to be truly bilingual before five or six years of instruction. It's a gradual process. Let's find "top-notch programs with outstanding teachers."
Everyone needs a chance to succeed academically. It's possible. It will be good for all students, and for the future of Los Angeles.
Frances Goldstein
Sherman Oaks
The writer is a retired L.A. Unified School District bilingual education teacher.
SB 1174 by state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) to allow for the return of bilingual education is a horrible idea.
In 1998, Proposition 227 passed easily, not because a bunch of xenophobes were behind it but because leaders in non-English-speaking communities supported it. They understood that to be successful, you had to know English.
Teaching a second language to all students is a great idea. This should start in the early grades, but non-English speakers should not be given credit for studying English or the language they already know.
All other instruction must be in English if our children are to have the skills they will need to succeed in a more competitive world.
Chris Daly

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