Thirty Years of Failure by Ron Unz
San Francisco Chronicle (Letters), Sunday, July 30, 2000
Your Sunday, Sept. 10 editorial, “A Rush to Judgment on Bilingual Education,” claims that two years isn’t long enough to judge the success of Proposition 227’s dismantling of bilingual education. Actually, bilingual programs have been obvious failures for 30 years, and 30 years of failure is long enough.
Oceanside Unified, near San Diego, which almost completely eradicated bilingual programs, saw the mean percentile reading scores of its immigrant students rise by over 11 points, or nearly 100 percent in less than two years. Math test scores rose by nearly 19 points. In several grades and subject areas, Oceanside’s limited-English students — many the children of impoverished and illiterate Latino farm workers — are now fast approaching the national average for the children of white, middle-class, English-speaking families. This remarkable achievement is what has attracted national attention to Oceanside.
Compare this with the results in our own nearby San Jose Unified, the only district in California legally exempt from Proposition 227. Its mean reading scores for immigrant students rose by just 1.6 points in those two years. In 1998, immigrant students in San Jose scored well above those in Oceanside, but have now fallen far, far behind. Pro-bilingual Vista Unified, next to Oceanside, shows exactly the same pattern of failure. I can’t imagine why parents in San Jose and Vista shouldn’t urge their leaders to “learn from Oceanside.”
Ron Unz, Chairman
Prop. 227—English for the Children