Bilingual Programs Facilitate Students' Acquisition of English
Letter published in Education Week, July 9, 2014
A recent Learning the Language blog post on California bilingual education is right: Things have changed dramatically since the dismantling of bilingual education in California caused by the passage of Proposition 227.
The most important change is that there is more evidence than ever that bilingual education works, and that bilingual education does a better job of helping children acquire English than all-English "immersion" programs do. In their paper "The Consistent Outcome of Bilingual Education Programs: A Meta-analysis of Meta-analyses," Grace McField and David McField considered comparisons of bilingual education and English immersion that had been included in previous meta-analyses. (Their study is published in The Miseducation of English Learners, edited by Grace McField and released by Information Age Publishing earlier this year.)
The authors concluded that, when both program quality and research quality are considered, the superiority of bilingual education was considerably larger than that reported in previous analyses. This should settle the argument: Bilingual programs, when set up correctly and evaluated correctly, do not prevent the acquisition of English—they facilitate it.
Professor Emeritus of Education
University of Southern California