The Problem with Bilingual Education

“The Problem with Bilingual Education,” by Ron Unz
New York Times (Letters), Sunday, October 27, 2002

In his defense of bilingual education programs (“The Voters’ Prerogatives and Bilingual Education,” Lessons column, Oct. 23), Richard Rothstein implies that previous generations of European immigrants would have greatly benefited by spending the first five to seven years of their schooling in classes taught mostly in Italian, Yiddish or Greek, as is called for under current bilingual education theory. I disagree.

Mr. Rothstein also praises the success of the Texas bilingual education programs so strongly supported by President Bush while he was governor of Texas.

In fact, according to The Austin-American Statesman, barely half of Texas’ nearly 600,000 immigrant students have even learned enough English to be tested in that language after four years in the program.

By contrast, the standardized test scores of California’s 1.5 million immigrant students have risen dramatically since our initiative dismantled bilingual education four years ago.

For example, the percentage of limited-English second graders reading at or above the national average has more than doubled since then, in contradiction to Mr. Rothstein’s predictions at the time.

Ron Unz, Chairman
English for the Children
Palo Alto, Calif., Oct. 24, 2002

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