After 30 years of the bilingual experiment and billions of dollars spent, reliable research shows that these programs fail to teach students the English language and literacy they need for school success. Bob Measel, assistant director of the Massachusetts Office of English Language Acquisition and Academic Achievement, confirmed that the 2002 law’s exception for dual-language programs does not extend to programs exclusively serving English learners.
A recent study that randomly assigned limited English proficient kindergartners in six schools to bilingual education or structured English immersion finds no statistically significant differences in English skills by grade 4 as measured on standardized tests 4 In earlier grades, though, difference in English test scores between students in the two programs were larger and sometimes statistically significant.
Under the Local Control Funding Formula, the 2013 school law that provides a certain amount of money for each child, plus extra if that child has special needs, schools have more flexibility in controlling their budgets and more incentives to create bilingual and multilingual programs.
Enrollment was flat in California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, and Arizona (the top six states by number of limited English proficient students) but grew 29% in the other states over the decade, reflecting the increasing geographic dispersion of immigrants.
Several of the researchers I talked with also pointed out that, in bilingual education, non-English-dominant students and their families tend to feel that their home language is heard and valued, compared with a classroom where the home language is left at the door in favor of English.