NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

California Students Are Now Learning English

May 18, 2000

Two years ago, California voters passed Proposition 227 -- which required that state public schools teach non-English-speaking students primarily in English until they become fluent. Now a record number of them have been certified as fluent, leading supporters of the initiative to claim victory.

  • From December 1998 until December 1999, more than 32,000 of the state's 313,442 "English learners" were reclassified as fluent.
  • Observers report that the greatest increase is occurring before students leave elementary school -- with more than 19,000 of them in kindergarten through fifth grade.
  • Experts say that is crucial since it means most of the newly fluent students will spend the majority of their school years in "mainstream" classes taught in English.
  • That should eventually mean a greater proportion of them will succeed on the state's standardized tests.

Some school systems -- particularly those in the San Francisco area -- have been slow to follow through on Prop. 227's provisions.

Opponents of the initiative had argued that non-English-speakers would be hurt by immersion in English . Now they argue that it is too soon to hail the results and that "verbal fluency" does not equal "literacy."

Source: Andrea Billups, "English Fluency Soars in Los Angeles Schools," Washington Times, May 18, 2000.


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