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Bilingual Education

September 08, 1986

As a member of the State Board of Education, Papadakis has been presented with research and test results that continue to show that the most efficient and effective way for Ramon to learn to speak as well as read and write English is through a bilingual program. It is a shame that she continues to ignore this information and misrepresents the facts as she did in her article.

Students are not labeled limited English proficient (LEP) for their whole educational careers. They are mainstreamed into all English programs as soon as possible. At Eastman School in East Los Angeles 90% of the entering kindergartners are LEP, but by sixth grade only 10% remain limited in their English skills. This 10% are usually students who arrived at the school late and didn't start with the program in kindergarten.

In the San Jose Unified School District more than 80 students have been mainstreamed into all English classrooms. The average time spent in bilingual classrooms is two to four years. These students who are now in all-English classrooms are working at or above the national norm in English reading, language and math. These are not unusual results. In school districts in Baldwin Park, Cerritos, Lodi, Ontario-Montclair, Calexico, San Diego, etc., the same results are being demonstrated.

Papadakis focused quite a bit on a child's kindergarten experience and says that since the curriculum is not so academically oriented, an all-English program is sufficient and preferred. The recent first-year results of a four-year national study looked at more than 600 LEP kindergartners: 220 were enrolled in English immersion programs and 398 were enrolled in two different types of bilingual programs. The 398 students enrolled in bilingual programs learned more English in that one year of kindergarten than the 220 students in English immersion programs.

Let me make it "perfectly clear." The goal of bilingual education is for all students to learn to speak, read and write English well. It is much easier for our teachers and our school system to work in one language. We would not volunteer (no extra money is paid to bilingual teachers or administrators) for the additional work and certification if we didn't believe it was essential for Ramon's success in California's schools.

Papadakis is the dissenter on her Board of Education in reference to the passage of AB 2813. State Superintendent Bill Honig, the State Board of Education and every major education organization is urging the governor to sign that bill. I believe in bilingual education. Ramon's future is bright if only Papadakis would give him the opportunity he deserves.

SHELLY SPIEGEL-COLEMAN

Sacramento

Spiegel-Coleman is president of the California Assn. for Bilingual Education.

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