California Behind Several States, Including Texas, on Bilingual Education

California Behind Several States, Including Texas, on Bilingual Education

An instructor teaches a history lesson in Spanish in a Dual Language Academy class at Franklin High School in Los Angeles on May 25, 2017. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

Micaela Ricaforte

Micaela Ricaforte

12/8/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

California has a smaller percentage of English learners in bilingual education than several other states despite having a much higher number of such students than any other state, according to a recent report.
The report, published in October by the New York-based think tank The Century Foundation, found that nearly 20 percent of the state’s students are currently English learners—more than 1.1 million students—but that only 16.4 percent of those students were enrolled in a bilingual or dual-language program in the 2019–20 school year.
Meanwhile, several other states have double or triple the percentage of English language students enrolled in such programs.
According to the report, Wisconsin had 55.9 percent of its English learners enrolled in bilingual programs, while Texas had 36.7 percent; Illinois, 35.9 percent; and New Jersey 33.4 percent during that academic year.
English learners should be enrolled in bilingual programs, the report said, because achieving fluency in multiple languages enhances students’ ability to learn English, preserves their skills in their home language, and gives them an advantage in the workforce in the future.
“Linguistically diverse students of all ages do best when they are able to develop their emerging bilingualism,” the authors stated in the report.
They additionally recommended targeting English learners as early as possible in transitional kindergarten and kindergarten.
Authors also recommended the state change credential requirements for transitional kindergarten to recruit more bilingual teachers.

Bilingual Controversy

In 1998, California voters approved Proposition 227, which required teaching English learners nearly exclusively in English and limiting the amount of time students would stay in special classes to one year in most cases.
“The state’s bilingual teacher training programs were largely dismantled,” said researchers in the report.
Since then, other ballot measures and laws have been passed, updating English language learning requirements and easing restrictions on bilingual education.
The Century Foundation noted the state’s so-called Global California 2030 agenda written in 2018, which recommended expanding dual-language immersion programs to 1,600 and enrolling half of California’s K–12 students by 2030. Currently there are about 750 dual-immersion programs in the state.
The report’s authors suggested state leaders hold themselves accountable to their progress by publishing annual updates on the Global California 2030 goals, including a list of bilingual and dual-language immersion programs with information on program model and languages of instruction and analysis of the demographics of students attending.
Additionally, they recommended the state grow its existing professional development program for bilingual teachers by providing at least $200 million in funding in the near future and another $75 million in ongoing grants for dual language immersion programs.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed a law which will incorporate more of students’ home languages at childcare centers.
The author of the new law, Assemblywoman Luz Rivas (D-Arleta), noted during the legislative process on her bill that 60 percent of children under five in California speak more than one language at home.
In a fact sheet for the bill, the assemblywoman’s office emphasized the importance of supporting children in both English and their home languages as they prepare for schooling.
“It is important to identify [dual language learners] when they enter preschool in order to design programs and train teachers to support children in ways that intentionally develop their home language and English,” the fact sheet stated. “Research shows that achieving fluency in multiple languages benefits children and students by broadening their cognitive flexibility, enhancing their ability to learn, and giving students the opportunity to become bi- or multi-lingual so that they are competitive in the global workforce.”
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Micaela Ricaforte

Micaela Ricaforte

Author

Micaela Ricaforte covers education in Southern California for The Epoch Times. In addition to writing, she is passionate about music, books, and coffee.

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