English-Language Learners

Study: Bilingual Ed., English Immersion Pan Out the Same

By Mary Ann Zehr — April 09, 2010 1 min read
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The first randomized-assignment study comparing bilingual education and English immersion that followed students for as long as five years has found that Spanish-speaking children learn to read English equally well by the 4th grade with either method.

I’ve written a story about the study that was published today at edweek.org. You can read the study, which was conducted by the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University, for yourself.

Robert E. Slavin, the director of the center and one of the researchers for the study, told me this week what a number of experts on ELLs have been saying for a while: the quality of a program for ELLs is more crucial than the language of instruction.

The study compares short-term transitional bilingual education, in which children first learned to read in Spanish and started the transition to English as early as the first grade with the transition completed by 3rd grade, and English-immersion, in which children were taught to read in English, with the exception of some explanation in Spanish.

Interestingly, the researchers for the study initially included a comparison with two-way bilingual programs in which children who are dominant in English and children who are dominant in Spanish learn both languages in the same classrooms. But because some schools dropped the programs, largely reducing the size of the sample of students, the researchers couldn’t continue with that part of the study.

I am wondering if any states would make policy changes based on a study such as this one.

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