NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Case Study: Ending Bilingual Education Improves Performance

November 3, 1997

Students in the first California school district to win a waiver of state bilingual education requirements significantly improved both their academic performance and English language skills during the 18 months they were placed in English-immersion classrooms.

The 9,544 students were in the Westminster School District of suburban Orange County -- an area with a high concentration of Vietnamese immigrants. The district won the waiver after it was discovered that the rules required it to hire 57 certified teachers bilingual in English and Vietnamese -- even though there were only 44 such teachers in the entire state.

  • The Westminster students on average placed in the 60th percentile on the California Achievement Test IV -- up from the 56th percentile under the former bilingual program.
  • In English language comprehension, scores among former bilingual students rose from an average of 34 to 39 on the test's 99-point scale.
  • Under bilingualism, only 4 percent of English-deficient students advanced each year to the point of not requiring any help in their native language -- compared to 10 percent annually under English immersion.
  • Meanwhile, supporters of a planned statewide initiative to ban bilingual education in classrooms report that they have gathered well over the 433,000 voter signatures needed to quality for inclusion on a ballot next June.

So far, three other school districts totaling more than 40,000 students have won waivers of state bilingual requirements. At least 10 applications for similar waivers are expected to be filed in the next three months.

A poll conducted early last month indicated the initiative is almost certain to pass, with more than 80 percent backing among all voters and 84 percent among Hispanics. Statistics show that fewer than 3 percent of the 1.3 million children in California's bilingual classes progressed to English-only instruction during the last school year.

Source: Thomas D. Elias, "Bilingual-Education Waiver Pays Off With Better Grades," Washington Times, November 3, 1997.


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