Proposition 227 places strict limits on the use of bilingual education in California’s public school classrooms. But seven years after voters overwhelmingly passed the ballot initiative, many of the state’s English learners in holdout school districts are still taught in their native language for most of the school day.
With increasing frequency, school districts that had clung to bilingual programs in spite of Prop. 227 are now recognizing the benefits of structured English immersion. Test results clearly indicate that immersion is working. In 2001, only a quarter of English learners scored in the top two proficiency categories on the California English Language Development Test. By 2004, almost half did.
Yet there is often a scarcity of useful resources for educators and administrators to utilize to move away from the bilingual programs they’ve used for decades or to design an effective structured English immersion program.
This paper collects some of the lessons learned by two very different California school districts – both of which have implemented successful immersion programs. Both districts have seen their immigrant students’ test scores soar. This paper describes their experiences, and discusses “lessons learned” in a format other education decisionmakers may choose to consider.
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