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Will California bring back bilingual education? (interview with Sean Reardon)

May 5, 2014
KCRW's “Which Way, L.A.?"
KCRW radio host Warren Olney interviews Stanford professor of education Sean Reardon, UCLA professor Patricia Gandara and Ron Unz, a financier who led the movement to restrict bilingual education programs in California schools, on the best approaches to educating English language learners. Reardon details the positive findings from his recent study of two-language programs offered by the San Francisco Unified School District. The research was conducted under a partnership between Stanford Graduate School of Education and the San Francisco school system.
Warren Olney

Warren Olney:  ...OK Let's take a look at what happened in San Francisco where under court order kids were required to continue with bilingual education. Sean Reardon is a professor in the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University which has looked at them. Professor good to have you on our show...what are your findings?

Sean Reardon:  So San Francisco as you note has had a sort of different plan for the last few years because of the court order. And they have students whose parents can choose one of several different language programs for their children, they can be in an English-immersion program, they can be in a bilingual program, or they can be in what’s called a dual-immersion program, it’s actually a bilingual program that also has native speakers English speakers in it, who are trying to learn Spanish or Chinese or something. And so the district came to us and asked us to help them evaluate how well their students were doing in each of these different programs so that they could figure out what was working and where they needed to improve. So we looked at students who entered the district in kindergarten and followed them for 10 years to sort of see how they were doing and we compared the trajectories of those students in the different programs. And what we found was interesting I think, we found that by second or third grade, the students in the English-immersion program had higher rates of English proficiency and higher scores on their standardized tests. By the time the kids got to middle school and then started into high school, the students in the two-language programs have caught up to them and in some cases surpassed them both in English proficiency and in their state standardized tests. So the story is somewhat nuanced in that the short term effects seem to favor English immersion, but the long term effects seem to favor the two-language programs…

Listen to the complete discussion on the KCRW program"Which Way, L.A.?" on May 5, 2014.

Sean Reardon is a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Education. He is a member of the Center for Education Policy Analysis at Stanford. The GSE posted March 25, 2014, a story about his research on English Language Learning programs.

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