Original URL:http://www.dailyreviewonline.com/Stories/0,1413,88~11010~1403115,00.html

Bilingual education gets unfair rap
Hayward Daily Review, May 20, 2003

REGARDING the op-ed article "Give bilingual education a chance" in The Daily Review April 18: It is interesting that in its criticism of bilingual education in Hayward Unified School District, this article shares the same slipshod methods of data interpretation as Ron Unz and the Official English movement. First, they show that schools with bilingual education have lower aggregate API ratings than nonbilingual schools.

They conclude that bilingual education causes lower performance on English standardized tests. But they do not consider that the bilingual schools
contain large numbers of students who come from low-income homes and who begin school with very little proficiency in English.

Family income and English proficiency are tightly associated with performance on standardized English tests. To ignore such important omissions when comparing schools' API levels is like "comparing apples to oranges."

In the criticism of the HUSD school board's reaffirmation of the Master Plan for English Language Learners, the author argues that bilingually educated children's test scores should "skyrocket past the 50th percentile."  We assume that this is a sarcastic reference to the well-proven fact that in well implemented bilingual programs, non-English proficient children eventually catch up to the grade level norms established by standardized
English tests. However, it is a statistical improbability that any large number of children, even those from middle-income English speaking homes,
will regularly score above the 50th percentile on a normed test like the SAT9.

We agree with the writer and with the Master Plan that the children in our HUSD bilingual program should achieve grade-level norms in English after
five to seven years.

We know from the results of the Spanish language SABE test that most of our students in bilingual education are learning well in reading, writing and math, and we know that it typically takes from five to seven years for these skills learned in Spanish to transfer to grade level performance in English. But to blame the low API ratings of our secondary schools on bilingual education is illogical.

Few of our current secondary school students are products of five to seven years of any bilingual program. In fact, the Master Plan was only adopted in HUSD in June of 2000, and the expansion of a bilingual program in most of our elementary schools is less than four years old.

We urge the article's author and all others who want to see our bilingually educated students achieve "with flying colors" to join with us in demanding the full implementation of the HUSD Master Plan so that the families who choose bilingual education for their children can expect the required number of fully competent bilingual teachers in every school, who will have the necessary books and materials and administrative support to teach their children the curriculum standards in BOTH languages, so that we can produce a new generation of biliterate, bicultural individuals to lead the city of Hayward into the future.

Miriam Warren and Rafael Flores are co-chairmen of the Hayward Education Association Bilingual Caucus.