With the passing of Prop 58 this past fall, California has made a complete turnaround in its attitude toward bilingual education. In the late 1990s, with Prop 227, voters opted to disallow the use of languages other than English for classroom instruction, which has prevented total academic success for English learners, and barred monolinguals from programming that would otherwise cultivate their knowledge of a second language and make them marketable in an increasingly global workplace.
No longer is this the case. There is great excitement that dual immersion education in particular will flourish–these programs split instructional time between English and a target language (often Spanish) and aim to enroll student populations that speak one or both languages natively. Dual immersion programming takes a positive, additive view of the linguistic resources that students bring to school and foster diversity and collaboration in a productive, noteworthy way.
However, the effects of Prop 227 will be felt for quite some time, says Amy Taxin of Associated Press. For the past two decades, most native-Spanish speaking students have been denied the cultivation of academic Spanish in a school setting, so the pool of advanced bilinguals for hiring into bilingual programming is scarce. Already, dual immersion schools across the nation are known to recruit and hire teachers from overseas, since these candidates can more likely guarantee the linguistic depth and richness that students need to claim true bilingualism.
Some hope is placed in young teacher candidates who graduate high school with the Seal of Biliteracy, indicating advanced proficiency in English and another language, but it will be another half-decade before such students can be placed in schools as teachers themselves.
Thankfully, our professional development and quality curriculum, which are soundly based on the promotion of academic bilingualism, can be instrumental in both the training and preparation of new bilingual teachers, and also as an immediate measure for advancing language proficiency among current students (that is, future teachers!). And since our curriculum has had demonstrable success in the dual immersion setting, we are enthusiastic about playing a crucial role in the foundation of a flourishing bilingual educational community.
It may take a few years for the logistics of bilingual education to match its enthusiasm, but the future looks very bright.