Saturday, June 07, 2014

Bilingual Education In California

When I first became a teacher and learned about bilingual education here in California, I was mortified.  Looks like the pendulum is shifting back to those days:
California is home to the largest population of limited English-speaking students in the nation. To succeed in the United States, these children must learn English.

How best to accomplish that aim? In 1998, after decades of failing such students, Californians voted to replace so-called bilingual education, which in practice taught children primarily in their native language, with English immersion programs.

By all measures, the shift was a success. Not only did kids learn English more quickly, but their reading scores improved, as well, doubling in the first four years after bilingual-ed was banned.

So why are California legislators now trying to reverse course and lift the ban? The move seems primarily aimed at appeasing a powerful bilingual-ed lobby — at the expense not only of the children they claim to want to help, but also of immigration reform...

The proponents of reinstating bilingual education in California seem far more interested in expanding the use of Spanish in American life than they do in helping children learn English.
This state could screw up a you-know-what.


maxutils said...

There are two different types of Bilingual education, and I'm not sure which this one is ... but both are wrong, so it doesn't really matter. The first would be teaching entirely in Spanish ... that is a recipe for disaster. We don't live in a Spanish speaking state, despite the fact that it is a significant force ... but we do our students no favor by promoting it. The second is teaching a hybrid course ... the presumption being that it would be useful if all students could speak 2 languages fluently ...I'm okay with that premise except that it requires that time be diverted from core curriculum. Maybe I'm the Ugly American, but I would much rather time being spent on my kids learning how to read and do math than learn a secondary language that might be useful someday. It's a choice.

Jerry Doctor said...

One thing I never understood about my district's ESL (English as a Second Language)program: When a student has spent six years in ESL and I'm told I still need to make allowance for his "language issues," isn't that proof that what we are doing doesn't work?

Ellen K said...

All you have to do on any of these educational programs is follow the money. Whoever has the most to lose will be the strongest voice in the fight. What's amusing to me is that our ESL avoids immersion except for electives saying that immersion is the worst way for a student to learn English. This year our "World" Language classes, however, will be taught as immersion from the first day. So I guess it's only Hispanic kids that can't learn from immersion.

allen (in Michigan) said...

The political motivation behind bilingual education is that it appeals to lefty conceits, i.e. gives the appearance of a prayerful respect for Hispanic culture, while providing a resultant excuse for budget increases. It's a win-win as far as the left's concerned and it'll continue to be episodically flogged as long as there's the faintest hope the policy can be reinstated.

What brought to policy low was the widespread antipathy on the part of Hispanic parents that A) sorry, the larger culture's an English-speaking culture and that's not going to change to suit those lefty conceits and B) bilingual education was being taught in schools that were doing a lousy job of teaching the English language. It was a castle made of sand built on a foundation of sand.

Not that any of that matters to the public education system since, as a political entity it's only responsible in the loosest, most tortuous manner for results. The fact that even with the loosest, most tortuous oversight the public education system was found wanting on this policy isn't much of a deterrent to the lefties whose conceit were being satisfied. Satisfying those conceits is, after all, the most important consideration of all and it's only mean, nasty people who stand in the way of indulging those conceits.

maxutils said...

allen ...i don't think you can blame bilingual ed on 'lefty conceits' Having spent a long time in the education biz, here's what I can tell you for sure: teacher turn-over ratios are off the charts; college students pursuing education degrees/ credentials tend to be in the bottom third of their class; lots of people who fall into these two categories realize they can't do anything else, and fall in to either administration or curriculum development. Once they are there? They need to figure out reasons for their job to be relevant ... so they have to figure out 'new' stuff that 'works' ... so, bilingual, group learning, NCLB, Common Core, STEM ...and, none of it does. Here's what works: 1) involved parent who read to their kids before Kindergarten 2) Quality teachers ... which means compensating them in proportion to their service, paid for by 3) much less bureaucracy and administration 4) smaller classes while they're learning to read (1-3) and in English classes in middle and High school, and 5) Absolutely open, fully funded school choice.