Report Card: English-Only Schooling

Christian Dominguez CBS

As the new school year begins, educators around the country are debating whether bilingual education is necessary.

Voters in Arizona this year may follow those in California, who virtually outlawed bilingual education under proposition 227 two years ago, reports CBS News Correspondent Sandra Hughes.

According to California standardized test scores, over the past two years reading test scores for English-learners have increased nine percent, and math scores 14 percent.

Last year, Christian Dominguez could not speak a word of English. In just a few months, he mastered his new language - in an English-only class.

Now starting the secondgrade, Christian says, "My friend Jonathan said, 'Wow! You can talk a lot of English!'"

For 30 years Oceanside, Calif., school superintendent Ken Noonan believed in bilingual education. But after the English-only law passed he watched in amazement as students test scores soared.

"I was shocked... I’d been wrong all these years... none of the dire predictions came true… If anything kids are coming to school more enthusiastic. They’re soaking up English much more quickly especially in the younger grade," he says.

Though the test scores are startling, some question whether English-only should get all the credit.

Class sizes were also reduced and reading techniques improved during the same time period.

Not far from Oceanside, Oneonta Elementary School officials worked to keep bilingual education programs at their school.

To do so they had to become a charter school.

Their bilingual students are doing just as well as on the standardized tests as English-only students -- proof they say that’s it’s too early to give up on bilingual education.

Johanna Vetcher, the assistant superintendent of South Bay Union School District, says, "We feel students who came to us speaking a language other than English are going to be more successful if they participate in a bilingual program."

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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