Massachusetts's most recent test results show that non-native English speakers have trouble functioning in a regular classroom, and bilingual education activists are hyping the news like Don King promoting a Tyson fight. According to the Boston Globe, three years after the Bay State ended bilingual education in favor of English immersion, "Eighty-three percent of children in grades 3 through 12 could not read, write, speak, or understand English well enough for regular classes after their first year in Massachusetts schools." To be sure, some districts enjoyed success with the immersion method. More than half the limited-English students in affluent Newton, for example, achieved fluency within a year. Not surprisingly, urban areas with concentrated numbers of limited-English students (and generally dysfunctional school systems) fared worse. One bilingual education proponent and (surprise!) ed school professor declared, "Empirically, kids are definitely worse off now." We're not so sure. English immersion is no silver bullet, but forcing children to languish in interminable bilingual programs certainly didn't work either. Combining immersion with plenty of support is more like it, sí?
"Bilingual law fails first test," by Maria Sacchetti and Tracy Jan, Boston Globe, May 21, 2006