Friday, April 10, 2009

Reality Based Education

Add another chapter to the book of ideology trumping actual results. In Boston, the voters approved a law that requires that students be taught all classes in English rather than allowing some subjects to be taught in the native language of non-English speakers (who make up 38% of the school system). The idea behind this was, presumably, that we speak English in this country so those kids had better suck it up and learn the language the way our great, great grandparents did.

Turns out that kids these days aren’t so good at sucking it up. According to a report by the Mauricio Gastón Institute for Latino Community Development and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts at Boston and the Center for Collaborative Education, since that law passed the dropout rate has doubled for ELLs in the system.

That’s a truly incredible figure. It also speaks to the utter failure of this approach to teaching these students.

I’m no expert in the theory and practice of teaching English as a second language, so I can’t say I know all the answers here. But it sure seems to me to be more likely that kids will succeed if they’re in school than if they drop out of school.

We can argue all we want about how kids these days need to tough it out and do things the way we’ve always done them in this country. And I know that immersion is considered a pretty effective way to learn a language. But the results of this program speak to failure, not success. Working to maintain a system that’s failing is simply ludicrous. We need to look at what actually helps kids learn, not what should help kids learn.

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