In a study of English Language Learners released by the Arizona Department of Education, English immersion students learned faster than students placed in bilingual classes. Those in immersion classes scored higher than bilingual education students “in every grade level between second and eighth grade in reading, language and math, based on Stanford 9 scores,” reports the Arizona Republic. By sixth grade, immersion students were more than one year ahead of bilingual students.
Critics say the study may not have compared similar students. For example, it’s possible that students in bilingual classes start with weaker English skills than students in English immersion.
It’s a valid point. However, a critic of the critics notes that bilingual advocates were happy to use dubious data comparing dissimilar students when it served their cause. Arizona voters passed an English for the Children initiative in 2000. During the campaign, bilingual advocates cited a state education department survey that found bilingual students outperformed English immersion students. But the data compared high-scoring bilingual students with all English immersion students; most bilingual students were exempted from testing.