In 1998 California passed Proposition 227 which states that bilingual students cannot learn to read and write in any language other than English. Sixteen years later certain parts of the state, San Francisco in particular, have found loopholes around the law that are helping non-native English speaking students succeed in two different languages.
With 30% of the 17,000 English learning San Francisco students participating in bilingual programs (compared to the state’s 5%), schools are seeing a greater amount of bilingual achievement in reading, writing and arithmetic. In a study published by Stanford University, students in dual language programs are as proficient in English as students in English-only programs, thus making the case for bilingual programs in California stronger.
The support for Proposition 227 came from a belief that English-only students would be segregated from non-native speaking classrooms, and bilingual students would end up at a significant disadvantage to their English-fluent peers. With the growing number of international businesses looking for bilingual workers, though, a change in thinking regarding dual-language education has made it harder to keep classrooms English-only.
Parents are playing a role in the programs’ growth as well. In order to get past Proposition 227, parents can sign a waiver allowing their children to take part in multi-language programs. Almost every parent of English learning students are opting to have their children take part in dual-language immersion, mainly because it allows them to use their native language without being taught in segregated classrooms.
The success in bilingual classrooms isn’t just seen in dual language abilities. San Francisco’s graduation rate for English-learning students is 68%, compared to the state’s 62%.