By the time they reached 5th grade, English-language learners in San Francisco’s public schools were equally proficient in English, whether they had been in a bilingual program or had received all their instruction in English,from Stanford University researchers has found.
Though ELLs who were in bilingual education programs in San Francisco lagged in the earlier grades, they scored similarly on the state’s academic tests and had virtually the same rates of reclassification to English-fluent status by 5th grade as their ELL peers who were in the district’s English-immersion program.
Source: San Francisco Unified School District, Stanford University
One notable exception: By 5th grade, higher numbers of Latino ELLs in bilingual programs reached the “midbasic” level of achievement on California’s English/language arts exam than their Latino ELL peers in English-immersion. That is the required minimum to be considered for reclassification to English-proficient status, among other criteria.
The study—commissioned by the San Francisco district and conducted by researcher Sean Reardon—compared the progress of English-learners as they moved from kindergarten through elementary grades and into middle school.
The study’s sample was 18,000 English-learners who entered kindergarten in San Francisco between 2002 and 2010. About 37 percent of the district’s student population are English-learners.
A version of this article appeared in the March 26, 2014 edition of Education Week as Different ELL Programs Found Effective