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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Editorial: Bilingual education getting dissected

This editorial appeared in the Woodburn Independent on Wednesday. The Woodburn Independent, a twice-weekly community newspaper serving the Woodburn and North Marion County community.

Bilingual education getting dissected
Woodburn Independent
July 23, 2008

The debate of whether or not schools should teach English as a Second Language (ESL) will swim to the forefront this election year. Initiative 19 prohibits teaching in a language other than English for more than two years.

So, if passed, according to the initiative itself, it “provides that no public school student shall be taught in language other than English for more than two years, with the exception for classes teaching foreign language to English speakers.” If it fails, it will “retain the requiring of English course for students unable to profit from classes taught in English, permitting multiple-language instruction to assist transition to English.”

There are pros and cons to both. The ESL program is very expensive and the program takes a long, long time. However, English immersion programs are showing mixed results around the country. A study from Harvard University showed that students in California and Arizona, two states that went to English immersion programs, were not acquiring English faster or doing better than they were before bilingual education was abolished.

The initiative’s bottom line is that it doesn’t want taxpayer money paying for these programs. We agree, however, the decision should be left up to individual schools districts, which make up their own budgets and know what they need on a year-to-year basis better than any state watchdog agency.

Each school board, or superintendent and his or her administrators should have the autonomy to do what works best for their district. If ESL doesn’t work in Hillsboro, but does work in Woodburn, those school districts should be able to make that choice on their own. If English immersion works better in Ashland or Burns, then they should not be under the same umbrella as the districts that don’t see the same benefits.

This is a problem that is becoming a national hot-button issue and when you have state and federal governments getting their hands in local school districts, usually it’s the students who suffer most.



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