Teaching methods, school demographics, parental involvement determine success or failure ---
The end of the school day in Patty Sanchez’s kindergarten class at Geddes Elementary School is not so different from other kindergarten classes around the state. Children gather on a rug as Sanchez holds up a storybook about a coyote and a turtle and reads out loud.
What’s different is that Sanchez is reading in Spanish.
Nearly all of the children in the room are Hispanic, and many are English-language learners. The few who are new to Spanish are expected to follow along with the story, too, and respond in Spanish to Sanchez’s questions.
Halfway through the story, she asks one little boy, a native English speaker, “¿Por qué está llorando la tortuga?” and quiets the children sitting nearby who try to whisper hints.
When he struggles with an answer, she gives him a prompt: Is the turtle triste – sad – or feliz – happy?
Finally, he gets it. “Triste!” he says.
The scene highlights a continuing California debate: More than a decade after voters approved an initiative to limit bilingual education in public schools, the state is using a hodgepodge of programs. Meanwhile, critics contend, young students pay the price.
Educators cannot agree on the best way to teach English to non-native speakers. Success is anecdotal. Studies appear to contradict each other. Meanwhile, the percentage of California English learners who are proficient in fourth-grade English has dropped on a national test.
The dual-language program at Geddes, where children are taught in Spanish 90 percent of the day until third grade, is a relative rarity in California these days. Since 1998, when voters passed Proposition 227, limiting the use of bilingual education, the number of English learners being taught in their primary language has dropped by half.
At the same time, the number of English learners has grown to about 1.5 million – about a quarter of California’s student population. Nearly 85 percent of them are Spanish speakers.
Proponents of Prop. 227 say English immersion is essential to students learning the language as quickly as possible, pointing to increases in academic performance by English learners on state tests since the law passed. About a third of English learners scored proficient or above on the state tests in fourth grade last year, more than double the percentage who were proficient in 2003.
“All the supporters of bilingual education said it would be a total disaster when it passed,” said Ron Unz, who led the movement for Prop. 227. “After the initiative passed, there was a lot of resistance. But within a couple of years, the tests came out. Everyone switched around.”
Bilingual education in California never worked, said Linda Espinosa, a former principal in a bilingual school in California and a University of Missouri-Columbia researcher who now works as a consultant for the California Department of Education. “The children never became proficient in English, and they tended to lose their home language,” she said.
But the English immersion system is not working either, she said.
Some students still learn in bilingual settings, where they gradually transition from their home language to English, while most others are immersed in English right away, usually with the help of specialized programs that help them learn English. A few schools have veered from both approaches and adopted dual-language programs, in which half the students are native English speakers and half are native Spanish speakers.
Patricia Gandara, an educational psychologist at UCLA, said students in bilingual programs often go to schools with higher concentrations of poverty, which is linked to lower test scores. She also said bilingual education programs have struggled because of a reduction in the number of qualified bilingual educators in California. In 2006, 556 teachers were certified to teach bilingual education, compared with 440 last year.
Increasing the involvement of immigrant parents in their children’s education, particularly early on, is also critical, school leaders and experts say. For parents who don’t speak English and have a low level of education themselves, helping with homework and advocating for their children can be difficult. But Gandara says connecting a child’s home life with school is the linchpin to success.
“The issue around bilingual instruction for me is, most importantly, having teachers in the classroom who can communicate with the parents and get parents to help them,” Gandara said. “Teachers who can talk to parents, can gain the trust of the parents – we don’t have that by and large in California.”
Manzanita SEED Elementary School in Oakland is another bilingual school that has closed the achievement gap. Last year, it was one of only two schools in California to receive federal recognition as a Title I Distinguished School for its high test scores.
Manzanita’s principal, Katherine Carter, helped open the school in 2005. On the wall of her office, she keeps a display with photos of every student in the school, categorized by their test scores. The school also has implemented an expeditionary learning model, in which students do major projects as a part of the curriculum and standards are emphasized.
Researchers confirm what these principals have found: There is no difference in educational quality or performance of English learners based on whether they were in a bilingual or an English-only setting. Instead, researchers say what matters more is whether schools use data and track student performance on an ongoing basis, whether the curriculum is rigorous and whether teachers are trained to help English learners connect their learning with what they already know in their own language.
Beating the odds
At a handful of English-only schools across the state, limited-English students have shown they can beat the odds, no matter the language of instruction. Rocketship Education, a chain of charter schools in San Jose, has used technology and block scheduling to lift the scores of English learners far above the state average. Think College Now, a school in Oakland, and Baldwin Elementary School, in the San Gabriel Valley, are English-only schools that have raised test scores by focusing intensely on the state’s core standards.
Think College Now teachers invite parents into their children’s homerooms for a half-hour each morning to read to their children in whatever language with which they feel comfortable.
Maria Bibiano, a stay-at-home mother from Acapulco, Mexico, comes every day to read books in Spanish with her youngest daughter, who is in kindergarten. “Before, I didn’t read with them. I didn’t realize I should make them read,” she said. “There’s a difference. She can read more than my other children at this age.”
Bilingual education “wasn’t the magic pill,” said Gold, the former California official. “It wasn’t the panacea that some advocates said it was. But it certainly wasn’t the devil’s curse that a lot of the opponents said it was either.”
This story was produced as part of a collaboration between California Watch, part of the independent, nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting, and The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education-news outlet affiliated with Teachers College, Columbia University.
La educación impacta en los ingresos cinco veces más que ningún otro factor ---
De acuerdo a un nuevo estudio, los niveles de educación tienen más impacto en los ingresos en el trabajo que ningún otro factor demográfico, como el género, raza o ser hispano. Muchos factores, como la raza, ser de origen hispano, género, ciudadanía, dominio del inglés, y lugar geográfico influyen en los ingresos en el trabajo pero ninguno tiene tanto impacto como la educación. El impacto estimado en los ingresos anuales entre alguien con un título universitario y alguien con educación secundaria fue de $72,000 anuales, casi cinco veces más que el impacto del factor de género, el cual fue de $13,000.
En octubre, el gobernador Brown firmó la AB 131, la segunda parte de la Ley DREAM en California, permitiendo así que los estudiantes que sean inmigrantes indocumentados soliciten apoyos financieros auspiciados por el estado para asistir a la universidad. De conformidad con la ley actual, los estudiantes indocumentados pagan colegiaturas como residentes si se graduaron de una preparatoria de California y declararon que están en vías de solicitar la legalización de su estatus migratorio. A partir del 1 de enero de 2013, dichos estudiantes serán elegibles para solicitar becas Cal Grant y otros apoyos públicos.
Education impacts earnings five times more than other factors ---
According to a new study, education levels had more effect on earnings in the workforce than any other demographic factor, such as gender, race and Hispanic origin. Many factors, such as race and Hispanic origin, gender, citizenship, English-speaking ability and geographic location do influence work-life earnings but none had as much impact as education. The estimated impact on annual earnings between a professional degree and an eighth grade education was about $72,000 a year, roughly five times the impact of gender, which was $13,000.
In October, Governor Brown signed AB 131, the second bill of the two-part California Dream Act, allowing undocumented immigrant students to apply for state-funded financial aid for college. Under current law, undocumented students pay resident tuition rates if they have graduated from a California high school and affirmed that they are in the process of applying to legalize their immigration status. Starting January 1, 2013, those students will be eligible to apply for state-funded Cal Grants and other public aid.
New Haven Unified School District, which includes schools in Union City and part of south Hayward, has shared test data showing student progress. More New Haven students are ranked as ‘advanced’ and fewer are ranked as ‘far below basic’ according to results of standardized tests taken during the 2010-11 school year.
According to STAR (Standardized Testing and Results) information released by the California Department of Education, 25.1 percent of New Haven students scored “advanced” in English/language arts, up from 22.3 percent in 2008-09. Over the same three-year period, the percentage of students scoring “far below basic” has decreased from 7.2 to 6.3 percent.