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Thirty Days of Only English, Then Bilingual Education


The Boston Globe published a story this week, "English Period," about how an elementary school in Framingham, Mass., has carried on with bilingual education, though voters passed an initiative back in 2002 to curtail the educational method. Under the 2002 law, educators in Massachusetts must place students in English-only classes for 30 days before they can move them to bilingual education. In addition, they must get waivers from parents of the English-immersion approach, the default method, to place any students in bilingual education.

The article spells out what impact this has on the students in the program.

It quotes Ron Unz, the California businessman who financed the campaign to get the ballot measure against bilingual education passed in Massachusetts. Previously Mr. Unz had paid for campaigns in California and Arizona that succeeded in getting similar anti-bilingual-education measures passed in those states.

Mr. Unz is quoted as saying the law to curtail bilingual education has worked in California, noting that the test scores of immigrant students (I assume he technically means English-language learners) have risen.

While test scores for ELLs have, in fact, increased, they've increased much more for other students.

For that reason, Californians Together, an advocacy group for English-language learners, contends, that English-language learners are not faring well in California. See the organization's press release this year expressing concerns about how the gap between English-language learners and other students is widening (it's the first release on the list).

For additional information about how ELLs are doing in states with restrictive language policies see my Education Week article, "NAEP Scores in States That Cut Bilingual Ed. Fuel Concern on ELLs," from last spring.


Where else can superior education be outlawed by voters whose children don't qualify for the education. This is a disgrace, to make bilingual education illegal. It needs to be expanded and offered to many more students.

I too read the article last week and blogged about it and am thrilled that you, also, Mary Ann take the time to report on the realization that the Boston Globe reporter shared - immersion, English only for 30 days is not working.

It's like talking to a brick wall many times with administrators and decision makers who are unable to see the reality ... little children learning their native language need to have that language in context throughout their daily routine. Sure they feel sick to their stomachs in these English only classrooms, of course they experience headaches. These children need and want their heritage, their home language to provide a point of reference and a feeling of security during their transition to United States' schools.

Thank you for sharing this with your community.

We can do this for children of all languages with not much extra money spent - it's a matter of helping the monolingual teacher weave languages into their daily routine because we all know there will never be the funding for bilingual staff around our nation.

Let's wake up decision makers to the options avaialable and affordable.

Beth Butler
CEO of The Boca Beth Program


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