Today California celebrates the 10th anniversary of Proposition 227, the “English for the Children” initiative many believed would end bilingual education in the public schools. Despite the positive results of Prop. 227, a new study by the Pacific Research Institute, a California based think-tank, raises serious concerns about how the law is being implemented in many classrooms.
For Immediate Release:
May 6, 2008
Contact: PRI Press Office
Rowena Itchon 415-955-6123
Brenda Buhler 415-955-6139
10 Years After End of Bilingual Education in California New Study Documents Attempts to Thwart English Immersion
Sacramento, June 2, 2008 – Today California celebrates the 10th anniversary of Proposition 227, the “English for the Children” initiative many believed would end bilingual education in the public schools. Despite the positive results of Prop. 227, a new study by the Pacific Research Institute, a California based think-tank, raises serious concerns about how the law is being implemented in many classrooms. English Immersion or Law Evasion? A 10th Anniversary Retrospective on Proposition 227 and the “End” of Bilingual Education documents efforts to undermine Prop. 227.
The brainchild of Silicon Valley entrepreneur Ron Unz, Prop. 227 won by a landslide 61 to 39 percent. The initiative drastically limited bilingual education, replacing it with structured English immersion (SEI). Bilingual education emphasizes the use of English-learner (EL) students’ native language for instruction in core subjects, while SEI requires teachers to teach primarily in English.
“Guerrilla warfare by bilingual-education adherents has ensured that bilingual education continues to be used to instruct hundreds of thousands of California students,” said Lance T. Izumi, director of Education Studies at PRI and co-author of the study. The study’s findings include:
- Due to a loophole in Prop. 227, around eight percent of EL students continue to be taught through bilingual education. Of even greater concern, a state Department of Education study found that most school districts allowed “the use of [EL students’ native language] on an occasional or even frequent basis, at least under certain conditions,” in what were supposedly English-immersion settings. Thus, some teachers and administrators may claim that they are implementing Prop. 227’s mandate for English immersion, but in reality that implementation may be watered down, or simply bilingual education by a more politically acceptable name.
- A number of California State University schools of education continue to emphasize bilingual education. For example, the chair of the Bilingual and Multicultural Education Department (BMED) at CSU Sacramento encourages colleagues to “promote bilingualism in a society that doesn’t promote it.”
- The BMED currently uses its own anthology, Bilingual Education: Introduction to the Education of English Learners, for some of its courses. The publication includes a chapter by a BMED faculty member describing her fight to save bilingual-education programs in schools. In the same publication, another author states that the “institutionalization of the English-speaking worldview in the United States” has resulted in all other cultural and ethnic groups being “systematically repressed and relegated to subordinate status.” The remedy, according to the author, is to turn out politicized minority teachers “who can speak and instruct [students] in their native language” and who can ensure the “cultural integrity of their own people.”
Bilingual-education programs continue to sprout. For example, a school in Colton, California recently implemented a publicized bilingual-education program in which 90 percent of initial instruction in kindergarten is in Spanish and only 10 percent in English. The California Bureau of State Audits has found that many EL students are not re-classified as fluent in English even though they test at the proficient level on the state’s English-language-development test. The Legislative Analyst’s Office says that the reason for this is due to perverse financial incentives that provide schools with government funding based on their EL student counts. Thus, the longer a student is classified as EL, the more money a school can receive.
- In the study, Mr. Izumi recommends the following reforms: “State officials should examine the extent to which state-supported institutions have become impediments to the full and effective implementation of Prop. 227; investigate the low rates of reclassification from EL status to English fluency; require local schools to document why individual EL students who have tested at the proficient level are not reclassified as English fluent; and collect individual-student-level data on the type of instructional program, whether English immersion or bilingual education, in which students participate.”
“English immersion is regarded as the fastest track to learning English, and strong English skills result in access to higher education and better paying jobs for California’s youth. Moreover, English immersion is the law in California, and we need to prevent efforts to undermine Prop. 227 and the will of California voters.”
Read the PDF Study
English Immersion or Law Evasion? A 10th Anniversary Retrospective on Proposition 227 and the “End” of Biligual Education by Lance T. Izumi, Rachel S. Chaney, and Jennifer L. Nelson is available at www.pacificresearch.org. To interview the authors, please contact Brenda Buhler at [email protected] or Rowena Itchon at [email protected]
For 29 years, the Pacific Research Institute (PRI) has championed freedom, opportunity, and individual responsibility through free-market policy solutions. PRI is a non-profit, non-partisan organization. For more information please visit our web site at www.pacificreseach.org