Thirty Days of Only English, Then Bilingual Education

By Mary Ann Zehr — September 26, 2008 1 min read
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The Boston Globe published a story this week, “English Period,” about how an elementary school in Framingham, Mass., has carried on with bilingual education, though voters passed an initiative back in 2002 to curtail the educational method. Under the 2002 law, educators in Massachusetts must place students in English-only classes for 30 days before they can move them to bilingual education. In addition, they must get waivers from parents of the English-immersion approach, the default method, to place any students in bilingual education.

The article spells out what impact this has on the students in the program.

It quotes Ron Unz, the California businessman who financed the campaign to get the ballot measure against bilingual education passed in Massachusetts. Previously Mr. Unz had paid for campaigns in California and Arizona that succeeded in getting similar anti-bilingual-education measures passed in those states.

Mr. Unz is quoted as saying the law to curtail bilingual education has worked in California, noting that the test scores of immigrant students (I assume he technically means English-language learners) have risen.

While test scores for ELLs have, in fact, increased, they’ve increased much more for other students.

For that reason, Californians Together, an advocacy group for English-language learners, contends, that English-language learners are not faring well in California. See the organization’s press release this year expressing concerns about how the gap between English-language learners and other students is widening (it’s the first release on the list).

For additional information about how ELLs are doing in states with restrictive language policies see my Education Week article, “NAEP Scores in States That Cut Bilingual Ed. Fuel Concern on ELLs,” from last spring.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.