Monday, May 27, 2013

High time we reversed 2002 ban on bilingual education

High time we reversed 2002 ban on bilingual education

Marcela Garcia is right on target with her May 21 op-ed “Sinking in an English-only classroom.” Massachusetts voters were conned into approving a 2002 referendum banning bilingual education by the argument that we want students to learn English. Of course we do, though perhaps not as much as they want to learn it.

The problem is that until you have a command of English, you can’t understand your other subjects, such as math, science, and social studies, and passing or flunking depends on how you do on tests of these subjects.

Years ago, Russian children in Springfield were in classes with English-speaking teachers, but they would also have a teacher who could speak both Russian and English. That meant the Russian youngsters could keep up with course work and also help the English-only speakers learn about Russian culture.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is well aware of the problem. A few years a subcommittee report found that dropout rates soared for students across the state who entered schools with limited proficiency in English after the 2002 referendum.

Massachusetts should figure out a way to get back to bilingual education.

Jean Caldwell
The writer has tutored students for whom English is a second language.

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