Los Angeles Times

Sunday, July 19, 1998

Stanford 9 Scores Show Bilingual Program Success
Current programs do allow fourth-grade students to transition to English, without losing content instruction while learning the language.

In March we were commanded by the state to give the Stanford 9 test to all second- and third-graders at Peach Hill School in Moorpark, regardless of language background and ability.
     I teach the highest performing English-speaking Spanish-readers in the third grade. They also receive math instruction in an integrated English class. At Peach Hill School, we place our third-grade Spanish readers for English instruction appropriate to their English-language needs.
     Our district policy is to transition Spanish readers to English in their fourth-grade year, provided they are ready. The criteria are that they have attended school regularly since kindergarten, have made regular academic progress, have developed oral English skills and are interested in doing more academic work in English.
     Many of my students have transitioned themselves this year. We have a school-wide independent reading program for the students to read books of personal interest, and many have begun to read in English.
     A few of my Spanish readers actually scored above the Peach Hill third-grade average in total reading and total math scores for the English Stanford 9 exam.
     I expected all of my Spanish readers to score below grade level in all areas but was pleasantly surprised to see that many scored at or above grade level in the areas of reading vocabulary in context and reading comprehension for functional and recreational purposes.
     Isn't it interesting that these are exactly the areas in which students can transfer reading skills from one language to another?
     I can just imagine--and hope to see--what these students' test scores will be next year, when they also have one year of English reading instruction (they will transition to English reading next year).
     I wish that I could compare those scores with the scores of students in other districts who have been confined to struggle in English since kindergarten. I predict that my students' English Stanford 9 scores will be higher.
     In addition, as I predicted, four of them have been accepted into a program for gifted and talented students next year, and two more are being tracked into it. In our district, students are first identified for that program in fourth grade.
     At the district level, the average scores of students who learned English in the Moorpark bilingual education program were almost as high as the average scores of native speakers of English.
     I know that none of these things could have happened had these students been sitting in the back of an English-only classroom as second-class citizens and English remedial readers.
     I am very concerned about the future of our programs. I see us actually going backward to the time before bilingual programs, when most language minority students were placed in special-education classes or retained at grade level because of language. We daily receive students from neighboring districts without appropriate programs, students who have been so treated only because of a language "disability."
     Our students will transition to English (we do believe in true "English for the children") but will not have lost content instruction in any area as they transition, if they continue to be taught academics in their primary language and have the opportunity to learn English at their own appropriate levels.
Jacquelyn Pinson, an Oxnard Resident, Teaches Bilingual Third-graders at Peach Hill School in the Moorpark Unified School District