In 1998, California voters approved Proposition 227, a statute that required schools to teach non-English speaking children the English language as rapidly as possible. Bilingual education, a program that required teaching in Spanish most of the school day, with short English lessons, had proven a failure. In 2016 voters endorsed a return to bilingual education, and the state now is seeking to hire more bilingual teachers.
The new call in California is for “dual immersion” classes where half the students are learning English and half are learning Spanish or some other language. California is working hard to find trained bilingual teachers for these classes.
Dr. Rosalie Porter, Chair of the ProEnglish Board of Directors, worked with Ron Unz to pass “English for the Children” measures in California, Arizona, and Massachusetts. She calls such bilingual, dual immersion programs a risky choice for immigrant students.
ProEnglish long has advocated for English language immersion programs as far superior to bilingual education programs for students for whom English is not the native language. Assigning these students to separate native language classrooms for many years ensures them a poorer-quality educational experience.
Bilingual education programs fail to teach students the English language and literacy skills that they need for academic and professional success. Segregation by language and ethnicity does not lead to higher academic performance. Delaying the learning of English holds back student achievement. Graduating from school without fluency and literacy in English severely deprives students of a world of greater academic and professional opportunities in the United States and elsewhere.
English language immersion programs offer students the opportunity to study English intensively and to learn how to speak, read, and write the language on a fast-track basis. English language immersion programs offer students the best chances for higher-quality educational experiences and a greater likelihood of higher-paying jobs and professional opportunities upon graduation.
California would be doing a far greater service for English learners by continuing their English language immersion programs rather than returning to the old, failed bilingual education programs.