NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Read Study: California English Immersion Results

September 25, 2000

In the spring of 1998, California implemented a new statewide assessment exam, the Stanford 9, and that summer voters approved Proposition 227, the "English for the Children" ballot initiative, reversing more than 20 years of state-mandated bilingual education for limited-English-proficient (LEP) children.

The initiative replaced failed bilingual programs with structured English immersion for all English learners. Because limited-English-proficient (LEP) students were required to take the Stanford test in English, California has three years of test scores and two years of experience with immersion programs.

After two years of instruction, LEP students made significant gains in reading and writing in English as well as math, relative to students nationwide taking the Stanford 9, most of whom are native English speakers.

  • On the Stanford 9 given during the 1997-1998 school year -- the last before bilingual education ended -- second grade LEP students, on average, scored at the 19th percentile nationally in reading, at the 27th percentile in math and at the 19th percentile in language (writing skills).
  • The next year (1999), after a year of immersion, 2nd grade LEP students ranked at the 23rd percentile in reading, the 32nd percentile in math and the 29th percentile in writing.
  • After two years of English immersion instruction, 2nd grade LEP students moved up to the 32nd percentile in reading and the 47th percentile in math, while maintaining average scores at the 29th percentile in writing.

Not surprisingly, the greatest gains were made in school districts that implemented the most intensive English-immersion programs.

Furthermore, say researchers, there is evidence that LEP students are being redesignated (reclassified) as Fully English Proficient at greater rates than previously. This usually means the student scores at least the 36th percentile on the Stanford 9 -- but the standard varies from district to district.

Source: Jorge Amselle and Amy C. Allison, "Two Years of Success: An Analysis of California Test Scores After Proposition 227," August 2000, Institute for Research in English Acquisition and Development, 815 15th Street, N.W., Suite 928, Washington, D.C. 20005, (202) 639-0803.


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