Bilingual education has had a difficult history in California. Early on, it was often considered a form of public assistance for the children of immigrants, who were placed in special classrooms with similar-background children and instructed in both their home language and English, segregated from native speakers of English.
Proposition 227, which was passed in 1998, outlawed bilingual education and mandated that all English learners be placed in English-only programmes. This despite the fact that research has clearly shown that “children in long-term bilingual programs develop higher competence in English than children in English-only programs”. In addition, “they reach higher academic achievement than children educated in only one language”. Things are slowly changing, however.
Benjamin Franklin Magnet School in Los Angeles County offers an extensive Italian immersion programme where “the standard California curriculum is taught primarily in Italian during the first two years (K-1), while English instruction, initially limited to 10%, increases gradually in the following grades. From 5th grade, half of all instruction is delivered in Italian and the other half in English.”
Research data from this Italian immersion programme in Glendale Unified School District – LA being the city with the fourth highest number of Italian Americans in the U.S. (approximately 95,300 out of a total population of 3.7 million) – irrefutably shows that “all children — English speakers and learners alike — can benefit tremendously from the opportunities and challenges brought about by a bilingual education”.
To find out more, read the full article by Simona Montanari in Language Magazine.