Education Week - October 12, 2016 - 20
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bilingual programs entirely. Besides
California, only Arizona and Massachusetts have English-only mandates
written into law.
Now, with widespread support and
little organized public opposition,
Proposition 58 would eliminate the
need for parental waivers and allow
districts to offer new language programs in
parents. The CaliE
fornia Chamber of
Commerce, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown,
and dozens of union and municipal
leaders are backing the measure.
Ricardo Lara, a Democratic state
senator from the Los Angeles area,
is leading the push to pass Prop.
58. A native Spanish speaker, Lara
learned his second language in English-only immersion classes. Lara
said several of his siblings excelled
in bilingual education after struggling with English-only instruction.
He wants more families in the state
to have both options; many residents
now view knowing two or more languages as an asset, Lara said.
"It's an attempt to right a tremendous wrong," Lara said. "We really
imposed a one-size-fits-all approach
when it comes to English-learners."
If Prop. 58 passes, schools will be
able to more easily establish bilingual programs for English-learners
and native English speakers seeking
to learn a foreign language. Under
the measure, districts would determine how ELLs should be taught
and provide any program, including
the existing English-only classes,
that enough families request.
But the few public opponents there
are argue that the ballot measure's
success would amount to a return to
the ineffective, bilingual education
programs that Californians already
rejected. At the time of Prop. 227,
many schools' approach to teaching
ELLs was to use transitional bilingual
education, with teachers providing
instruction initially only in the home
language-typically Spanish-with a
gradual shift to English.
Ronald Unz, the Silicon Valley software developer who financed and led
the Prop. 227 campaign, is the face of
the opposition to efforts to repeal it.
"The problem is, bilingual education doesn't work now, it's never
worked in the past, and despite its
advocates' extreme ideological commitment to that policy, it's just totally
unsuccessful," Unz said.
Many of Prop. 227's supporters
were dissatisfied that many Latino
students were relegated to Spanishonly classrooms for years. More recent, research-backed bilingual education models often take a different
approach, such as mixing native English speakers with English-learners
in dual-language classrooms in which
students learn English and a second
language. Supporters of Prop 58 say
their goal is to maintain existing
standards of English proficiency for
all students while giving more districts and families the option to abandon the English-only system.
"We're in a different place, and
Ron Unz just keeps saying the same
thing over and over again. We have
progressed" said Shelly SpiegelColeman, the executive director of
Californians Together, a Long Beachbased nonprofit that sparked the
growth of the seal of biliteracy and
backs Prop. 58. "The programs are
different, they're much more comprehensive, much more coherent and
based on much stronger research."
Unz said: "I haven't changed my
views in 18 years. The difference is
that the evidence was overwhelming
that I was correct."
In the early 2000s, Unz and other
Liz Hafalia / San Francisco Chronicle via Polaris
California May End
Era of 'English Only'
Aaron Ko, 6, studies in a
classroom at West Portal
Elementary School in San
Francisco. A statewide
measure on the November
ballot would reverse nearly
two decades of restrictions
on bilingual education
programs in California's
NEW E-BOOK FROM EDUCATION WEEK PRESS
Education Week gets to the
heart of a law set to reshape the
education policy landscape for
years to come.
20 | EDUCATION WEEK | October 12, 2016 | www.edweek.org
Prop. 227 proponents felt vindicated
when ELLs' test scores in English
proficiency and reading rose in the
first few years after the law passed.
That success sparked a change of
heart for some supporters of traditional bilingual education, including
Kenneth Noonan, a former superintendent in Oceanside, Calif.
As a one-time bilingual educator,
Noonan opposed the English-only
requirements of Prop. 227. But after
seeing students in many of his district's English-only classes learning
faster than peers in bilingual classes,
he began to back the approach.
Noonan, a former president of the
state board of education, co-signed,
along with Unz, the argument
against Proposition 58 that appears
in the state's voter-information guide.
"If students don't develop academic language, by the time they
reach high school, they're sunk,"
said Noonan, referring to the more
sophisticated English that is specific to academic disciplines, such
as science and mathematics.
The Fate of English-Learners
California has an uneven track record when it comes to educating English-learners. The U.S. departments
of Education and Justice have repeatedly scrutinized the state's efforts to
Last year, the Justice Department
reported that California had failed to
deal with reports from public schools
indicating that more than 20,000
English-learner students, a small
slice of the statewide total, had not
received proper instruction in the
English language and in other subjects. The allegations covered periods
dating to the 2007-08 school year.
Under a federal settlement announced last month, the state education agency agreed to new training
and monitoring procedures to ensure
language services for ELLs meet requirements of the federal Equal Educational Opportunities Act.
Unz said Prop. 58 would not make
the needs of students learning English a priority, but would mostly benefit affluent and middle-class parents
of native English speakers who want
their children in dual-immersion
classes where they are exposed to
other languages at a young age.
Harmeet Dhillon, a spokeswoman
for the California Republican Party,
agreed that ELLs would suffer under
"In our hard-pressed public schools,
what's going to happen is that these
students are going to be shunted into
a separate track for education that is
inferior," she said. "It's common sense
that the faster you're required to
learn the mainstream language, the
better off you are."
Politics or Progress?
But some of the most recent research doesn't back that argument.
A 2014 study from Stanford University researchers found that by the
time they reached 5th grade, ELLs in
San Francisco's public schools were
equally proficient in English whether
they had been in a bilingual program
or had received all their instruction
in English. And while the ELLs in bilingual education programs lagged in
earlier grades, they scored similarly
on the state's academic tests and had
virtually the same rates of reclassification to English-fluent status by
5th grade as students in Englishimmersion.
The study tracked 18,000 Englishlearners who entered kindergarten
between 2002 and 2010 and whose
parents had signed waivers to bypass
the restrictions of Proposition 227.
"Despite what some of the researchers say, they're saying the
same thing now they said 20 years
ago," Unz said. "People are sometimes
very committed to a certain ideological perspective. They retain that ideological perspective even if every shred
of evidence is on the other side. That's
exactly what you see here."
Lara, the California senator behind Prop. 58, said the measure represents progress, not the past.
"The electorate has changed,
attitudes have changed," Lara
said."We're going to give control back
to the educators and administrators.
What we saw with Prop. 227 was
noneducators dictating pedagogy."
Education Week special correspondent
Kavitha Cardoza contributed to this
Coverage of policy, government and
politics, and systems leadership is
supported in part by a grant from the
Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.
Education Week retains sole editorial
control over the content of this coverage.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - October 12, 2016
Bilingual Education Poised for a Comeback in California Schools
Cultural Literacy Creator Carries On Campaign
New Teachers Turn to Web for Mentoring
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Modern E-Rate Puts Telephones On Hold in K-12
Sides Seek to Avert Chicago Teachers’ Strike
Labor Dispute Simmering In Buffalo, N.Y.
Shooting Reignites Safety Concerns
Kan. Governor: Tax Hike Needed If State Loses Funding Case
Court to Weigh Level of Benefits for Special Ed. Students
Literacy Program Reflects Clinton Policy Agenda
Snapshot: School Finance A Judge Gets Tough
News in Brief
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
PAUL REVILLE: A Call to Action For K-12 Leaders
LYN MIKEL BROWN: A Field Guide to Girl Empowerment
JOHN URSCHEL: The Winning Equation In Math Education
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Modern E-Rate Puts Telephones On Hold in K-12
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - 2
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - 3
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - News in Brief
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - Report Roundup
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - Labor Dispute Simmering In Buffalo, N.Y.
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - Shooting Reignites Safety Concerns
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - Kan. Governor: Tax Hike Needed If State Loses Funding Case
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - 9
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - 10
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - 11
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - 12
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - 13
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - 14
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - 15
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - Literacy Program Reflects Clinton Policy Agenda
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - 17
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - Snapshot: School Finance A Judge Gets Tough
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - 19
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - 20
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - 21
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - LYN MIKEL BROWN: A Field Guide to Girl Empowerment
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - JOHN URSCHEL: The Winning Equation In Math Education
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - Letters
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - 25
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - 27
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - 28
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - 29
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - 30
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - 31
Education Week - October 12, 2016 - 32