NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

California Students Thrive In English-Only Classes

May 17, 1999

Former bilingual education students are learning English faster in English-only classrooms in California than almost anyone predicted. That is the conclusion, not just of bilingual education opponents, but of many formerly pro-bilingual teachers, according to reports.

California voters called for a halt to bilingual education in a referendum last year.

  • Far more immigrant parents than expected are choosing to keep their children in English-only classes rather than exploit a loophole in the law that would let them keep their youngsters in bilingual classes.
  • When asked if they wanted to send their children back to bilingual classes, fewer than 10 percent of parents in Los Angeles who were eligible to do so under the loophole responded positively.
  • Describing her first-grade students as "little sponges" who "absorb everything," an Orange County teacher who once taught and supported bilingual classes now says her 20 "English-deficient" charges add and subtract, read, write and speak in English -- much to her surprise.
  • Moreover, adult English classes funded at $50 million a year through a little-noticed provision of the proposition have become extremely popular with parents.

Despite these successes, San Francisco and several other districts skirted the law, never disbanded bilingual classes and dared the state or individual parents to sue for noncompliance -- which none has.

Source: Thomas D. Elias, "Bilingual Classes Ban Gets A in California," Washington Times, May 16, 1999.


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