New Research Shows that Prop 227 was a Mistake.
Sent to the Capitol Weekly (Sacramento, CA), April 18, 2010
Two studies have just appeared that show that children in bilingual programs learn about as much English as do children in English-only programs.
One study, headed by Robert Slavin of Johns Hopkins University, compared English learners in five states over five years who had the same program of instruction, except that one group was taught entirely in Spanish in kindergarten, with more English gradually introduced until the program was entirely in English by grade three. The researchers found only very small differences between the groups on English tests given in grades three and four. The second study, done by Christopher Jepsen of the University of Kentucky, looked at children in California: Those who had bilingual education did just as well as similar children who did not on tests of English in grades four and five.
Both studies show that the children in the bilingual programs made the same progress as comparisons in English literacy despite having less exposure to English. This means that the time spent in Spanish made a real contribution to English language development.
These two studies are only the most recent showing that bilingual education works. In most of the previous research, in fact, children in bilingual education did better on tests of English reading than comparison students did.
Bilingual programs also help children develop their first language, which is beneficial to the individual as well as society: Bilinguals do better than monolinguals on several kinds of tests of intelligence, and bilingualism appears to reduce some of the negative effects of aging. Also bilingualism is an obvious asset to business as well as national security.
In light of these findings, it is clear that approving Proposition 227, which dismantled bilingual education in California 1997 was a mistake. The use of the first language in school can help English language development, and at the same time provides the advantages of bilingualism.