NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Bilingual Education Limps Along

May 29, 2002

Studies have found that bilingual education victimizes students assigned to be instructed in their (or their parents') native language, rather than English. It has been rejected by California and Arizona voters, and voters in Massachusetts will face the issue on the November ballot -- giving them the choice to continue it or replace it with a one-year program of English immersion.

Measurements of the effectiveness of English immersion are now coming in from California, which rejected bilingual education in a 1998 referendum.

  • The state's 2001 English Language Development Test revealed that 24 percent of students judged initially to be less fluent in English scored as "advanced" or "early advanced" -- high enough to be classified as fluent -- after English immersion.
  • Immersion students were three times more likely than bilingual-ed students to become fluent.

For three decades, observers say, bilingual ed supporters have tried to explain away its failures. Now, they must explain away immersion's success. Immersion supporters hope Massachusetts voters will familiarize themselves with the California's experience before they go to the polls.

Source: Tom Gray, Schools' Bilingual Ed Failures Push States to Seek Reforms," Investor's Business Daily, May 29, 2002.


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