Bilingual education programs call for non-English speaking students to receive instruction in their native language simultaneous with intensive English-as-a second-language, or ESL,instruction. The original objective of bilingual education was to address the needs of students whose poor academic achievement was attributed in part to insufficient English instruction. The theorybehind bilingual education is that if students are taught all subjects in their native languages first, they will learn English better and faster in the long run.
But critics of bilingual educationargue that instead of mainstreaming students into English, bilingual education programs have often turned into long-term alternative language development. They argue that this approach keeps students ina cycle of native language dependency that ultimately obstructs significant progress in English language acquisition.
Recently in California, English scores on the Comprehensive Test of BasicSkills have proven that fourth-graders who move to English-only classes from Spanish instruction perform poorly in English. The state's Latino students have consistently scored the lowest of any ethnicgroup on the SATs, and have the highest dropout rate, fifty percent. Figures from California's Department of Education show that the number of the state's public school students in bilingual programs hasmore than doubled from 1981 to 1993, but the percentage of these making it into English-only classes was cut in half.
The shortcomings in bilingual education led California voters to approveProposition 227, an initiative that largely eliminates bilingual education from the state's public schools in June of 1998. Now sentiment is building in Arizona for a similar citizen initiative, which maybe placed on Arizona's ballot in 2000. The current bilingual program has received failing grades from state overseers, but Arizona legislators and education officials so far have not been able to...