Bilingual Education Does Not Work: Replace with Sheltered English Immersion

Nov 14, 2012 by

by Donna Garner –

First, please read the following excerpts from my article (12.14.11) about bilingual education.  Then go to the Houston Chronicle link (posted further on down the page) in which Delia Pompa, senior vice president of the National Council of La Raza, testified yesterday  before Judge Dietz in the huge Texas school funding lawsuit.  Pompa was trying to persuade  Texas to spend more millions on bilingual education and gave this data:  “…English-language learners had an 18 percent passing rate on the 2012 statewide standardized test known as STAAR. Non-English-language learning students had 72 percent passing rates.”

Pompa’s testimony and the STAAR test results make my point exactly: Bilingual education does not work to produce students who are truly proficient in English.  Spending millions more on bilingual education will not fix a discredited program.  Dr. Christine Rossell has shown that sheltered English immersion is a far better program to use, and she has the research from Texas to prove it.  Please read further.

Excerpts from my 12.14.11 article:



What we must do to increase academic achievement in Texas is to address the root causes that are holding our students back.  It does no good to treat the symptoms; we must treat the causes of our “disease.”


One of those root causes is bilingual education, and it will take real courage on the part of Texans to face the truth.


Dr. Christine Rossell’s research done in Texas on Texas students (Sept. 2009) told us what our Texas schools need to do, but policy-makers have not had the courage to implement her recommendations because of the possible Hispanic backlash.


I believe that most Hispanic parents badly want their children to gain English proficiency so that they can make a good living for their families.  Parents who speak only Spanish know how limited their own economic opportunities are, and most want their children to learn English.


It is the high-profile Hispanic politicians and organizations (the ones who manage to speak the loudest and manage to get their views into the news) that do not want Hispanics to gain English proficiency.  If Hispanics gain English proficiency, they can successfully assimilate into society; and the Hispanic politicians and organizations lose their voter base.


Let’s think about this:  Why should public school taxpayers be required to support bilingual education during the school day for one group of language speakers (Spanish) over another language group (e.g., Chinese, French, German, Laotian, Japanese, Vietnamese, etc.)?


For the good of all concerned, the taxpayers need to support English acquisition for all students during English classes.  If students want to take foreign languages in other classes, then they should certainly have those opportunities.


If Hispanics want to maintain their own language and cultural activities, then they should certainly exercise that right through their churches and community organizations outside the school day; but we taxpayers should not be required to support with our tax dollars one particular language group in our public schools.


To read Dr. Christine Rossell’s full report produced by Texas Public Policy Foundation, please go to the following link:



September 2009


Does Bilingual Education Work? The Case of Texas


By Christine Rossell, Ph.D.


Published by Texas Public Policy Foundation



Executive Summary


Texas is a large growing state due in part to high-birth rates and individuals choosing to move to Texas from other states and countries. According to the state demographer,

one rapidly expanding demographic is the Hispanic population, which is expected to double between 2000 and 2025 from 6.6 million people to more than 13.4 million people.


The number of students in Texas public schools that are not proficient in English* continues to grow. In the 2008-09 school year, Texas had 448,917 students in bilingual education.


† Between 1992 and 2006, Texas’ English Language Learner student population increased by 84 percent. Currently, 99 percent of the students enrolled in Texas bilingual education programs are Hispanic.


As Texas’ Hispanic population and immigrant population continues to grow, it is critically important that state leaders and policymakers look at the facts on how to best teach English to non-English speaking children.


The goal of any type of program teaching English to non-English speaking children should be learning English. Yet, opinions vary and tempers flare over which program—bilingual education or sheltered English immersion—teaches English most effectively.


Sometimes the term “bilingual education” is used loosely to refer to any type of English teaching program. For the purposes of this study, bilingual education is defined as instruction provided to students in their native tongue in all subjects in a self-contained

classroom with other students that speak the same language. English is typically taught by the bilingual education teacher.


English-as-a-Second Language (ESL) instruction is defined as a program of small group English instruction by a certified ESL teacher whose students typically spend the rest of the day in a mainstream classroom.


Sheltered English immersion is defined as instruction provided to students in English at a pace they can understand, taught by a trained ESL teacher, in a self-contained classroom with other students learning a second language.


Consider some key facts:


• Texas is one of only four states currently requiring bilingual education. The other three states are Illinois, New Jersey, and New York.


• Texas is one of only 10 states that have ever required bilingual education. The other nine states are California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Washington, and Wisconsin.


Bilingual education is more expensive‡ than other programs and is the least educationally effective. (Bilingual education is more expensive than mainstreaming or sheltered English immersion, and is less effective.)


Students in bilingual education are not required to be tested on the English TAKS for the first three years. Testing all English Language Learners in English is the best way to hold schools accountable for the English language acquisition of their students and an excellent way to give schools credit for the extraordinary job they do of teaching English and

content such as math and science to non-English speaking students.




Adopt sheltered English immersion as the default for Texas public schools;


• Give parents choice to pick the program that best meets their child’s needs in learning English; and


Test all English Language Learner students on the English TAKS.


* Non-English speaking children are often referred to as Limited English Proficient (LEP) or English Language Learners (ELL).


† In the 2007-08 school year, Texas had 424,039 students in bilingual education. In the 2006-07 school year, Texas had 396,951 students enrolled in bilingual education. This data was provided to the author by the Information Analysis Division of the Texas Education Agency by email, as the state lumps bilingual education and ESL instruction enrollment data together.


‡ Ranging from $211 to $402 more per student per year.


[Starting in Spring 2012, Texas public school students in Grades 9 – 3 will no longer be taking the TAKS tests but will be taking the new STAAR tests that are aligned with the new ELAR, Science, and Social Studies curriculum requirements adopted by the elected Texas State Board of Education starting in May 2008.]





Donna Garner





To read the entire 11.13.12 Houston Chronicle article, please go to this link:



Donna Garner


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