In the Los Angeles Unified School District, 12 new language immersion or bilingual education programs came online this school year. Next year, the district expects to add another dozen or so.
No matter how California votes on Proposition 58 on Election Day, the state's largest school district will continue to expand its offerings that predominantly teach students in languages other than English.
If approved, this year's ballot measure would roll back 1998's Proposition 227, which required California public schools offer the vast majority of their instruction in English. Under that mandate, even non-native speakers were required to receive "sheltered English immersion" before they could transition into mainstream classes.
But under Prop. 227, parents could obtain a waiver from these requirements, allowing their child to be able to learn in languages other than English.
Because of those waivers, L.A. Unified has opened 87 dual language, bilingual and immersion programs, said Hilda Maldonado, executive director of the district's Department of Multilingual Multicultural Education.
The waivers, Maldonado said, are just "another layer of red tape that everyone has to sift through."
She said if Prop. 58 passed, the district could eliminate that layer of red tape. If Prop. 58 did not pass, it would not alter the district's plans to continue offering these programs.
(Check out this story by Adolfo Guzman-Lopez for more on the pros and cons of Prop. 58)
What kinds of multilingual programs does L.A. Unified offer?
- Dual language (65 programs): The district designs these programs for both English learners and English-proficient students. Students of all ages — from Grades K-12 — can enroll. Elementary students spend 50-90 percent of their day learning in another language. (Spanish is the most widely-available immersion program, but the district offers Korean, Madnarin, Arabic and Armenian programs too.) Secondary students spend two or three periods out of a six-period day learning in that target language.
- Maintenance Bilingual Education, or "MBE" (7 programs); and Transitional Bilingual Education, or "TBE" (10 programs): These two similar programs are not for students already proficient in English — they're for English learners. In MBE programs, English learners in Grades K-5 spend their days learning in the language they know best for between 50-70 percent of their time. TBE programs focus on transitioning non-native speakers into English instruction by 3rd grade; though they spend only about 30 percent of their time learning in English in Kindergarten, they are receiving almost all of their instruction in English by third grade.
- Foreign-Language Immersion (5 programs): L.A. Unified's Foreign Language Immersion programs are "one-way" programs — designed only for English-proficient students. That distinguishes them from the district's "two-way" dual-language programs, which are founded on the principle of mixing English-dominant students with students who speak the immersion language.