Biligual Education

.. t unassailable. In their zeal to protect the program from any challenges, CABE (California Association of Bilingual Education), its ardent supporters had also consistently opposed any attempts to reform it. Californias powerful teachers unions (one of the Democratic Partys strongest constituencies) made the issue a mainstay of that states liberal agenda. Because activists had early on identified bilingual education as the primary Latino civil rights issue, the equivalent of what busing was to blacks, foes and doubters of the program were routinely branded as racists.

Unfortunately, this defensive posture insured that bilingual lobbyists were more concerned with preserving the program than making sure it was benefiting the children it served. Often the objectives of the classes were confused, the quality of instruction was poor, and the criteria used to determine who got put into a bilingual class and when students were ready to transition into regular classes were murky. Looking at the other side of the litigation, one can believe that Proposition 227 may not be the right answer to the past bilingual education system. Opponents of the bill argue that one year, as stated by the bill, is not enough for students, or anyone, to learn a brand new language. This time constrain will cause an even greater negative impact to all immigrant student. Researchers believe that students, once they have completed the one year English instruction, and that are not fully efficient with the language, will experience great challenges and problem in the mainstream classes.

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Understanding the lectures may become dramatically hard and consequentially result in lowers grades and the rise of dropouts among the minority groups. Loss of control, in local schools in California, is another problem that the opponents of the bill have presented. When Proposition 227 was introduced, many declared that the passage of such bill, would disable schools from choosing the ways in which subjects and classes are taught to students. Researches and surveys have had been taken by various institution to determine the old and new status of the school system in California and few other states. A multiyear survey that was the largest ever of the children of immigrants found that they overwhelmingly prefer English to their parent native tongues and had higher grades and steeply lower school dropout rates than other American children.

An even larger majority of them said that the United States was the best country to live in. Among the most striking findings of the bi-coastal survey of children from San Diego and Miami-Dade and Broward Counties in South Florida had to do with the contentious issue of language. While nine out of ten of the youths surveyed spoke a language other than English at home, almost eighty eight percent preferred English by the end of high school. In San Diego the children of immigrants had better grades than their American peers in every grade. The children of Chinese, Indian, Japanese and Korean parents had the highest grade point averages (As and Bs). English speaking West Indians had lower grades, Cs and C+s.

Latin American and Haitian youths performed poorest, with averages that were slightly higher or lower than a C. The children of Cubans did worse academically that the children of Mexicans, who are one of the poorest immigrants groups in the United States and by far the largest immigrant group. It is also imperative to realize that many researches conducted by the NRC (National Research Council), and by other Federal Agencies, were vague or perhaps not applicable. Arguers stated repeatedly that due to the various aspects of the issues, a specific analysis could have not been derived. There was not a clear way to measure the effectiveness of bilingual education.

The reason was the fact that there were, and still are, many various different races and cultures in the public schools in California. Some cultures and students were more advanced than the others were. Some students found English relatively easy to learn and advance quicker that their immigrant peers leaving a gap which caused a problem to methodically measure the students academic performance. In addition, the type of English taught in such classes could not have been established. Parents and students complained that the English learned in such classes was not socially useful, the did not need to learn how to order food at a local fast food restaurant, a more complex and fully structured, professional perhaps, English was demanded by many parents. Question such as Is the purpose only to get students into regular classes as rapidly as possible, or is the purpose also some form of Hispanic cultural preservation? developed.

Due to its size and diverse population California is now been viewed as a experimental model by many other states. California has the largest School District in the nation. In addition, it has the largest number of immigrants, mainly of Hispanic origins, that attend public schools. States like Florida, New York and Texas are closely looking at California, they already have started to present their own ballots and studies to whether or not change their school systems. In particular, in states like Texas and Florida, where business and political leaders understand their regions interdependence with Latin America, and where Hispanic voters are much more influential that they have been in California, there is considerably more tolerance for, and interest in, bilingual assets.

Finally, another aspect of such change in the Californian school system that is closely watched, is the control of education in its school. Members of the Board of Education in California have argued that with the passage of Proposition 227, local schools have lost control over their suggested curriculums and programs. Schools will have to conform to the new law, and take whatever action needed to prepare their campuses by September 1998 to comply with Prop. 227. Such changes vary from the physical need for more or less chair per classrooms, to the re-assignment of teacher to teach certain subjects. Today the law says to teach non-English-speaking students in special English immersion classes. Proposition 227, which passed with a sixty one percent majority, went in two effect on June 2, 1998 and it will take effect in sixty days from that date.

School officials say that they can not comply with the Proposition when school starts in the fall, but they wont have to be ready. They believe it will be tied up in court for years, or they will get a waiver from the state board of education to continue bilingual education. On June 3, 1998 a coalition of civil rights groups filed a lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco. To get an injunction, they must persuade US District Judge Charles Legge, a Reagan appointee, that their lawsuit is likely to win on the merits. Ron Unz wrote his English for the Children initiative to fit federal rulings, which say schools may use a variety of methods, including English immersion, to help students with limited English skills get an education comparable to other students.

Almost certainly, Proposition 227 in constitutional, according to Joanne Jacobs of the San Jose Mercury News. She further presents the reader with ways to make the Proposition work. Ideally, California law would allow a range of choices, including high-quality bilingual programs that show results. Proposition 227 isnt ideal, but is the law. Its time to think about how to make it work. The author further presents the following approaches to the new law.

Opponents of 227 claim it requires students to be mainstreamed after a year of special immersion classes, with no additional help in learning English or other subjects. State guidelines should take a sensible interpretation, letting schools mainstream students when they are ready, and provide whatever extra help is needed. The state board has jurisdiction over parental waivers foe children under ten with special needs. The board should make it clear that special needs doesnt mean a child must be learning disabled, letting parents choose bilingual education if that is what they want. The Legislature also could help by passing a special appropriation so districts can buy English-language books, and train teachers to teach reading, math science and social studies to students who are not fluent in English.

All California teachers are supposed to be trained in these techniques in the next few years; 227 makes this a priority. Switching students after thirty days will be a major headache. It would be a lot easier if parents who plan to seek a waiver were encouraged to enroll their children at the same school of schools, which could be staffed with bilingual teachers. The same teachers and administrators who bitterly opposed 27 will be the ones who will have to make English immersion work. Many sincerely believe it can not work, a belief that could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Educators will have to put their personal feelings aside for the sake for their students. It will be very difficult, but there is no alternative.

Like Proposition 13, Proposition 227 is a voters revolt against the elites, reflecting enormous frustration with the status quo. It schools are perceived to be flouting the will of the voters, the backlash will be disastrous. I personally came to the United States in 1988. I spent the fist eight years in Los Angeles and attended public High School in the City of Torrance. Coming to America, I had very little knowledge of the English language.

I had finished all the high school level classes in Italy and was ready to attend College. However, when I came to America it was determined by my parents and the local school district that it would have been beneficial for me to attend one year (the senior year) in the local High School. I was enrolled into two English as a Second Language classes and simultaneously attended Algebra, regular English, and Economics classes. Now that I look back I can easily say that I had felt separated by all other kids, making friends was somewhat hard for me because of the language barrier; this applied to both type of classes the mainstream and the ESLs. I was the only Italian-speaking person, and therefore many fellow immigrants students and teachers thought I spoke Spanish.

I found the English language somewhat easy to learn, moreover, I have to thank many of the English-speaking friends that I made back then to teach me the slang and spent time with me outside school. Mathematics and Economics were easy for me, I can say with confidence that I had one of the highest grades in comparison to my English-speaking classmates. The main problems that I had were the communication skills, both writing and speaking English proved to be the greatest challenge for me during that year. My need to communicate with others drove my incentive to master the language, within the first two years; many of my friends were surprised how well my English was. Despite the foreign accent, they had all agreed that my English was very efficient. As an overall, I appreciate the year spent in High School learning the language, I believe that all new immigrant student should attend such classes. They have made a very positive impact in my life. In conclusion, I believe that all races should master the English language as quick as possible, for it is the essence of social integration that can lead to one success or failure of the American Dream.