ProEnglish Chairwoman argues against bilingual education for Massachusetts public schools in the Boston Globe West editorial – August 21, 2016
Should the state adopt legislation allowing school districts more leeway to offer bilingual education?
NO – Statement of Rosalie Pedalino Porter, Former director of bilingual/ESL programs, Newton Public Schools, author of “American Immigrant: My Life in Three Languages
A Senate bill recently introduced on Beacon Hill urges more “flexibility” in programs for English Learners, those students entering our schools with a limited knowledge of the English language.
There are three separate issues concerning this legislation (S2421): which program has documented evidence of meeting the goals of rapid mastery of English language and literacy for learning school subjects in English; does the current law provides flexibility of program options; and, which programs will promote bilingualism or multilingualism for all students by high school graduation?
As a Spanish/English bilingual teacher and administrator, my direct experience of research and publishing in this field convinced me that the bilingual education model is the least effective approach. Studies from Arizona, California, Texas, Florida, and New York concluded that students in English Immersion classrooms consistently outperform children taught in their native language in bilingual classrooms.
The National Research Council, in a study of 29 years of bilingual education, found no evidence for long-term advantages to initial literacy instruction in the primary language versus English. Arizona reported in 2004 that students in Structured English Immersion classrooms outscore students in bilingual programs in every subject at all grade levels, and the majority master English well enough to pass the state tests in English and math within two years.
Comparing existing law in Massachusetts – which sets English immersion programs as the standard – with the proposed change reveals that there is flexibility now: any group of parents can petition their school district to provide a dual language program. Framingham, for instance, provides Spanish and Portuguese programs for English Learners.
The danger in S2421 is that it will remove the requirement that English Learners be provided the skills they need immediately through Structured English Immersion to prepare them for integration with their English-speaking classmates and to have the greatest opportunity for academic achievement.
Encouraging all students to become bilingual or multilingual may be a worthy idea, but it is distinctly separate from meeting the basic needs of our English Learners. Keep the focus on this growing population, keep excellent law already in place, and demand public reports from the state on English Learner student achievement.
Read the full article on BostonGlobe.com.