Los Angeles Times

Sunday, August 24, 1997

Letter to the Editor: More Voices on Bilingual Teaching

 * It is beneath your high standards to portray bilingual education programs as not being successful when statistics and facts prove that they are.
     Teachers like Gloria Matta Tuchman ("Testing the Limits of Bilingual Education," Aug. 8) feel they are doing the best for the children, but longitudinal studies show that most students whose second language is English and who are in an English immersion program can't keep up with their peers academically after the fourth grade.
     Of course, first-graders will show that they do well in an English immersion classroom: What highly cognitive or abstract concepts are tested in first grade?
     Virginia Collier, a researcher of George Mason University who has conducted a longitudinal study of bilingual programs in the nation, has found that those whose second language is English do well in English-only classrooms up until third grade.
     Collier's study shows that after third grade these same students do not do well on the standardized tests in English and their scores continue to drop through high school. Is this what we want for California? I think not.
     Her longitudinal study shows that students who have been in bilingual programs show steady growth throughout their school experience. This information should be made public to citizens of California so that they, as a well-informed citizenry, can be aware of programs that do help our bilingual students succeed academically, but never at the expense of their first language.
     Yorba Linda