But millions of young children enter school without grasping much English, and No Child Left Behind now humiliates them by setting on their desk a standardized exam that canâ€™t be deciphered.
I think this is a red herring. NCLB requires testing at the end of third grade, when most students have had nearly four years to learn English. Those in English immersion have much more exposure to English than those in transitional bilingual classes, which typically use Spanish 90 percent of the time in kindergarten and first grade and often don’t teach reading in English till the middle of third grade.
Even a Bush administration review of controlled classroom experiments â€” seeking to identify what works in language teaching â€” found stronger achievement gains for students enrolled in quality bilingual programs, compared with English-immersion classrooms. Yet a skilled bilingual teacher is crucial, one who understands the knowledge and social norms that children acquire at home, and how to build from the first language to advance rich oral language and then written literacy.
Unfortunately, there’s a shortage of skilled bilingual teachers; as a result, quality bilingual programs are the exception, not the norm. It’s easier to find teachers capable of teaching well in English.