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Bilingual Education Controversy

April 26, 1998

Re "A Bilingual Bill at Last," editorial, April 22: The bilingual debate is the same as the phonics debate, all or nothing. Real teachers know that the middle ground is the only thing that works for the vast majority of students.

Fountain Valley has been using specially designed academic instruction in English with native language aides for years. This method has been far more successful than any of the districts cited in your editorial. In fact, leaders from Fountain Valley (Project GLAD) have been awarded the academic excellence rating at the national level every year since 1991. They deserved the award!

LARRY SEVERSON, Fountain Valley

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Victoria Lee-Jerrems and Ellen Wu (Opinion, April 19) spelled out very clearly why we must vote against Prop. 227. Being bilingual has tremendous advantages in today's global economy. For that reason I chose to place my two sons in bilingual programs. They will not be part of another generation of "tongue-tied" Americans.

Could it be that Ron Unz and his supporters fear that Latino Americans and Asian Pacific American students will have a linguistic and economic advantage over those students who choose not to learn another language?

RAUL MARTINEZ, La Habra

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In "Supporters of Bilingual Education Go on the Offensive" (April 17), Gloria Matta Tuchman, a candidate for state superintendent of public instruction, was quoted as saying, "The people will decide, not activist groups or people who are trying to promote their own political agenda."

Among the strongest supporters of the goals of bilingual education are neither "activists" nor people with a "political agenda." Rather they are research scholars and language educators who know that the preponderance of psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic research related to the education of linguistic minority students in our schools validates and supports the principles of bilingual education.

If Tuchman is aware of this literature and chooses to ignore it, it is she who is playing the political game. If she is unaware of the research, then she certainly should not be elected to a position that calls for informed decisions.

RUSSELL N. CAMPBELL, Professor Emeritus, Applied Linguistics, UCLA

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Gina and Vanessa were two of my best English language students in my third-grade modified bilingual LAUSD class. These two Spanish speakers wrote and read in English better than most of my English-only students. I knew they would be transitioned to an English-only class in fourth grade.

I was wrong. The following year I was astonished to find them in a full Spanish fourth grade. The bilingual coordinator explained to me that they had failed the district's transitional exam. How was that possible? They were so proficient in English! The answer: The transitional exam is given in Spanish! Does this make sense? Not to me. I am no longer with LAUSD.

I applaud Mayor Richard Riordan for his stand to end bilingual education.

PAULA T. DERSOM, Canoga Park

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