SANTA ANA — School board trustees spent three hours Tuesday poring over a much anticipated, wide-ranging report on bilingual education in the district.
The report, compiled by UC Riverside researchers for the Santa Ana Unified School District and released last week, cited a general need for bilingual programs, but noted that no one method is best. Rather, the report found, different children respond to different types of programs.
"While the one best way of achieving English fluency . . . may one day be discovered," the report said, "the evidence in this study points to the appropriateness of tailoring educational programs to diverse student needs and learning styles."
Trustee Audrey Yamagata-Noji said the study offered few concrete solutions but suggested that the district more closely examine when to advance students into different language programs.
"We're dealing with a human element," she said. "We're not dealing with widgets."
But Trustee Robert W. Balen said what struck him was the report's endorsement of bilingual education.
"It's a pretty powerful conclusion," he said.
Bilingual programs in Santa Ana, according to the report, emphasize immersion in English with some help in the student's native language, or instruction in the native language with English phased in over time.
Report authors noted that bilingual education has become, to some, a political issue. But they urged district officials to make educational choices based on "the best available evidence."
Of about 52,000 students in the Santa Ana district, the report found, only 18%, or about 9,300, are native English speakers who receive no bilingual services.