I, Lily Wong Fillmore, hereby declare as follows:

1. I am a professor at the Graduate School of Education, U.C. Berkeley. I have previously filed a declaration in this case, and my vita is attached thereto.

2. The proposals contained in Proposition 227 rely on the belief that "[y]oung immigrant children can easily acquire full fluency in a new language, such as English, if they are heavily exposed to that language in the classroom at an early age" (emphasis added). Based on that assumption the amendment requires that "all children should be taught English by being placed in English language classrooms," this defined (305(b)) as "a classroom in which the language of instruction used by the teaching personnel is overwhelmingly the English language, and in which such teaching personnel possess a good knowledge of the English language." The amendment stipulates that children who speak little or no English shall be placed in "sheltered English immersion programs" for "a temporary transitional period not normally intended to exceed one year" where they will be grouped with other non-English speakers (children "having the same degree of English fluency") from "different language groups" for the purpose of learning English. The amendment then stipulates that "once English language learners have acquired a good working knowledge of English, they shall be transferred to English language mainstream classrooms." 

3. Is it believable that young immigrant children can acquire "a good working knowledge of English" by being exposed to that language for one year or less of "sheltered English immersion"? Is there reason to believe that the level of English competence that immigrant children can attain under the stipulated conditions is sufficient to give them access to the curriculum of the school by the time they are mainstreamed into a regular classroom?

4. My own research over the past twenty five years on the learning of English by young Spanish and Cantonese speaking children indicates that they do not achieve useful competence in the school language within one year. The children I have studied have been in a variety of types of educational programs, including, but not limited to, classrooms that focused primarily on teaching English as rapidly as possible. In my research I have looked at the influence of individual differences in children (social and cognitive), and how such differences affected the ways in which children made use of language-learning opportunities (Wong Fillmore, 1976, 1979, 1983, 1989a, 1989a 1991). I have also examined the extent to which children's language learning is affected by teachers' instructional practices (Wong Fillmore, 1982, 1985a, 1985b, 1989b). But I have not myself directly examined the question of whether or not children could function in school with what they have learned of English in a given time period. 

I looked for evidence in the research literature that addressed the specific question: Given conditions of the type laid out in the amendment (conditions of timing and instructional method), can young immigrant children in just one year acquire fluency in English, or even a usable working knowledge of the language? How much English can young children (say in kindergarten or first grade) acquire in a year when they are in the kinds of classes envisioned in Proposition 227? How long is it likely to take for them to reach a level of proficiency that constitutes "a good working knowledge of English?" 

5. As a linguist, the kind of research I regard as convincing is based on direct measures of linguistic knowledge and performance, and on the relationship between linguistic knowledge as such and educational performance. There is research evidence on how long it takes children who do not initially understand English to handle the school curriculum as taught in that language. Ramirez, et al. (1991), Cummins (1981, 1991), Collier (1987) and Klesmer (1994), have provided important evidence that it can take LEP students from 5 to 7 years, and in some cases as much as 10 years, depending on the educational programs they are in, to achieve grade level norms in academic subjects taught in English. An important study from Canada provides strong evidence on how long it takes students who are learning English as a second language (ESL) to achieve linguistic parity with age-peers who are native speakers of English. Using several tests of oral and written language, for both comprehension and production, Klesmer (1994) compared the performance of 12-year-old ESL students with the performance on the same tests of same-age native speakers of English. The ESL students and the control group of native speakers were randomly selected for this study. An essential variable was length of residence in Canada (LOR) of the ESL students. Klesmer found that on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test the ESL students who had lived in Canada for 6-11 months reached the test norms of approximately 4;6 year old native speakers of English, putting them just under the 1st percentile of 12-year-old native speakers. (Following a convention in child development research, the notation "4;6" means four years and six months.) Those who had lived in an English-speaking school environment for 12 to 17 months were scoring at about the level of 5 year old children, but still below the 1st percentile of native speakers of their age group. In the Word Opposites subtest of the Detroit Test of Learning Aptitudes, with a year of English behind them, the 12 year old ESL students were scoring at a level comparable to the performance of 7;5 year old native speakers of English; after 12 to 17 months they were scoring at the level of 7;6 year olds, or at the 5th percentile for their age group. The most important finding was that only those ESL students who had had 60 to 71 months of English (5 to 6 years) reached native speaker age norms on these measures of English. 

6. In order to obtain evidence on how much progress in English children in California can make in one year of the prescribed programs, a group of educational researchers under my supervision conducted a study recently in two urban school districts with large enrollments of LEP students. We focused our attention on students in those districts who were identified as "non-English speakers." (The identifications were based on the PreLAS proficiency test in one district and on the IPT in the other.) Well over 90% of the children who met our selection criteria were in kindergarten, and were largely in bilingual programs. In both districts, however, there were some children who had been placed in classes that were designated "Sheltered English Language Development" (Sheltered ELD) programs. The children in those classes were all non-English speakers or quite limited in English proficiency. They came from different primary language groups, and were taught entirely in English by English speaking teachers. These children were in programs that were much like the ones prescribed in the amendment. 

(a) How the study was conducted: We drew a sample of the children in these Sheltered ELD classes using standard procedures for random sampling: the children who met our selection criteria (PreLAS initial level 1, or IPT Levels A & B) were numbered, and by using a table of random numbers we selected a total of 260 children from the two districts. The children selected by this procedure were tested at the end of the school year (within the last 5 days of the semester in each district) on appropriate forms of the Language Assessment Scales (LAS).

Three forms of the PreLAS were used for children who were completing kindergarten: PreLAS, forms A and B, and the PreLAS-2000. Those who were completing the first grade were tested on the LAS-1C. The LAS test has been, for the past 20 years, the mostly widely used instrument for classifying school children for English language proficiency. For children as young as those in our sample, it is of course restricted to oral language comprehension and production. Acknowledged as a test of excellent reliability and validity, normed for English-speaking children, it provides a good measure of English second language growth over time. Because it is so widely used, there is ample evidence on how well children at different levels of performance on the test fare in school, and it enables predictions of expected gains for children depending on their test scores (De Avila, 1997). (The psychometric properties of the test, and research on the validity and reliability of this instrument are discussed in the preLAS Technical Report (De Avila and Duncan, in preparation).) For each child in our sample the test was administered by an educational professional -- a graduate student or faculty member in Education from the University of California at Berkeley or San Francisco State University, or a certificated school teacher. The testers were trained to administer the LAS by Jill Morgan, an expert on the test. The children in one district were tested between May 28 and June 3, those in the other district between June 8 and June 12, 1998. 

(b) Of the 260 children drawn randomly from those who met our criteria in the two districts, 252 were available for testing. Of the 252 tests that were administered, some could not be used for various reasons: a child was not feeling well at the time of the testing; the test administrator suspected a child had a learning disability; or, a child simply did not want to be tested. In several cases, the children's speech was not clear enough to be analyzed. In several others, there were missing data, and those tests too were not included in our analysis. In all, 239 tests figure in our analysis.

The tests were scored by Ms Morgan and two applied linguists under Ms Morgan's supervision. More than 50% of the tests were double-scored to insure interrater reliability.

(c) Before reporting on the findings of this study, I will describe proficiency levels that are derived from LAS test scores. For 5 to 6 year olds, the age of most of our subjects at the end of their kindergarten year, the PreLAS Manual provides the following interpretation of proficiency levels reflected by total scores. It should be noted that the within-level intervals decrease as total scores increase. Beginners have the longest way to go in moving to the next level, but as they learn more, the language they must acquire becomes more complex, so it is more difficult to move from Level 3 to 4, than it is to move from Level 1 to 2, or from 2 to 3.

TABLE 1. Cut-Off Levels and Interpretation of Scores and Levels

Total Score for 
5 & 6-Year-Old Children
Proficiency Level Interpretation of Numerical Levels
0-61 1 Non-English Speaker (NES) At most, a child at this level can comprehend simple, common phrases, and produce single words and formulaic phrases, but can neither comprehend or produce anything beyond that. 
62-71 2 Extremely Limited English Speaker (LES) Child can comprehend simple, common phrases, and produce rudimentary sentences, but has difficulty comprehending anything without massive contextual support. 
72-81 3 Limited English Speaker (LES) Child can comprehend simple familiar conversational English, and participate in social interactions by relying on the willingness of interlocutors to figure out what he is trying to say. Sentences are fragmentary and not grammatically developed. 
82-91 4 Potentially Fluent English Speaker (FES) Child can comprehend language as it is used in more varied settings, including well contextualized speech in the classroom. Child can express herself in simple, but generally understandable English. 
92-100 5 Fluent (proficient) English Speaker (FES) Child can understand language as it is used in school for instructional purposes. Child is also able to produce language as required for participation in age appropriate activities. 

(Adapted from the PreLAS 2000 Manual, 1998)
As Table 1 shows, children who score 82 and above on LAS can be assumed to have learned enough English to have access to the curriculum of the school. While children at level 4 may have a way to go before being fully proficient in English, there is a firm enough foundation to deal with the linguistic complexities of the instructional language they are likely to encounter in the classroom, and they have the linguistic resources in English to tackle reading instruction as well. Below level 4 however, children simply do not know enough English to get access to the curriculum, or to deal with literacy in that language. It will take some children several years more, depending on where they are to acquire enough English to deal with it as a medium of instruction in school.

7. Findings:

Table 2 shows that Chinese speakers (including Mandarin and Cantonese) were the largest group, comprising 33.47% of the sample. Spanish speakers are next, with 47 or 19.66%. Chinese and Spanish speakers are both large groups, but more Chinese speakers are found among the NES and LES students in the Sheltered ELD classes. Khmer (Cambodian) speakers are the next largest group, comprising 15% of the sample. There is no bilingual program for the Cambodian speakers in either of the two districts, so they are all in Sheltered ELD programs. The other groups are all small but they reflect well the linguistic diversity in the two districts in which the study was conducted.

TABLE 2. Primary Languages of Children in Sample

Primary Language  Number  % of Total
Chinese      80     33.47
Spanish     47     19.66
Khmer (Cambodian)      36     15.06
Vietnamese      15      6.27
Pilipino      11      4.60
Arabic      10      4.18
Serbo-Croatian       8      3.36
Other Asian       8      3.34
All Others      24     10.04
ALL     239     99.98

Table 3 shows how the 239 children in our sample performed on the LAS test after one year in Sheltered ELD classroom programs. 

TABLE 3. Performance on LAS by Levels

Levels 1 2 3 4 5
Number      78       68       77       14       1 
% of Total 32.64 28.45 32.22 5.86 0.42
Mean Score 48.77 66.09 76.23 84.57 94.00
Standard Deviation  11.442 3.764 3.360 2.102 0.000

As we see, nearly a third of the children who began the school year as non-English speakers remain solidly in this category. With a mean score of 48.77, the average child in this category has a long way to go in English before he can be considered even a beginning level LEP child. Another 28.45% of the children are at Level 2: they are at the lowest LEP level. The children in Levels 1 and 2 comprise 61.09% of all of the children in our sample. In Level 3, where children are still very limited in their knowledge of English, we find another third of the sample: 32.2%. These children are still so limited in English, they would have considerable difficulty understanding subject matter taught in that language without a great deal of instructional support. When we add the children at Level 3 to those at Levels 1 and 2, we find that 93.31% of the children in our sample who began the year as non-English speakers remain so, or are so limited in their knowledge of English that they could not be considered linguistically prepared to handle a curriculum which is provided exclusively in that language. According to the LAS Manual, the 223 children in Levels 1 through 3 are scoring at or below the 7th percentile in comparison with native speakers of English at the same age. Out of our sample of 239 children, just 15 or 6.28% are able to do that. These 15 children may have had a good start in English at the beginning of the school year, and may have been at the high end of Level 1 (with scores of 60-61, say), and thus the gains they made during this year would not be so striking.

8. Among the many children whose learning of English I have studied, there have been a few children who seem to be especially quick at learning new languages. They are certainly not the norm, however. Far more typical of the learners I have studied over the years are the children who are at the high end of Level 2 and the low end of Level 3. What kind of language skills do children at those levels of proficiency possess? The following language samples are very typical: 

Beginning Level 2 child retelling a story about a boy who found a hole in his shoe, and who had it fixed by a shoe repairman:

    Come, he come. Choo. The choo. The choo is come back.
A mid-range Level 2 child retelling a story about Mr. Winkle who planted some potatoes, and later made enough soup to feed the neighbors:
    They went. They go like that. (Makes digging motion with his hand) The boy do like that. They eat a tomato.
A high Level 2 child retelling the shoe repair story:
    Bobby s'oe have ho'. Su'nly de s'oemaker, de de s'oemaker can no fis s'oe. Su'nly de chil'ren work clean de garbage. Su'nly de s'oe maker done he s'oe and him happy.
A low Level 3 child retelling the shoe repair story: 
    The shoe, the shoe, has mmmmm bubble. And and now, he fix it. And, and, he was cleaning. And he, ummmm, I donno this. I donno this one (pointing at picture 4).
A high Level 3 child retelling the same story:
    The the the shoe of the kid, mmm, it got, it mm a hoyos on it. And, and he wen' to to the store, and he said, "Excuse me. Cou' you fis my shoes?" He said "I can't. I got to get to work. I will help you for you can fis my shoe. And and he was helping and then went go work, and then he, he, the man, he um, he ah, he fis his shoe.

Can children who have as much difficulty expressing themselves as these children do possibly be regarded as having "a good working knowledge of English" after a year in school? I think not. The point is that full fluency is not achievable by even the youngest learners in just one or two years, no matter what kind of program they are in. It will take much longer -- at least three or four years longer -- for the children in our sample to acquire English sufficient to enable them to fully participate in a mainstream class.

I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California that the foregoing is true and correct.

Executed this _______ day of ______________, 1998, at _____________________, California.


Lily Wong Fillmore 


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Wong Fillmore, L., "The Language Learner as an Individual," in M. Clarke and J. Handscombe, Eds. Pacific Perspectives on Language Learning and Teaching. Washington, D.C.: TESOL, 1983. 

Wong Fillmore, L., "Instructional Language as Linguistic Input: Second Language Learning in Classrooms", in L. C. Wilkinson, Ed. Communication in the Classroom. New York: Academic Press, 1982.

Wong Fillmore, L., "Individual Differences in Second Language Acquisition," in C. J. Fillmore, D. Kempler, and W. S. Y. Wang, Eds. Individual Differences in Language Ability and Language Behavior. Academic Press, 1979. 

Wong Fillmore, L., The Second Time Around: Cognitive and Social Strategies in Second Language Acquisition, Ph.D. dissertation, Stanford University, 1976. 

Primary Declaration of Lily Wong Fillmore