Lexington Institute report fails to support claims that restricting bilingual education improved test scores in California


December 14, 2006



Flaws Render Education Report Useless for Guiding Policy/Practice


Lexington Institute report fails to support claims that restricting bilingual education improved test scores in California


CONTACT:  Teri Battaglieri (517) 203-2940 (e-mail)

                      Jeff MacSwan (805) 893-2250 (email)


EAST LANSING, Mich. – A new report which concludes that English Language Learners (ELL) are improving under a California law which severely limits bilingual education is riddled with flaws and offers no useful evidence on the subject, according to a Think Twice review of the report.


The original report is a policy brief, Immersion Not Submersion, Vol. III, written by David White and published by the Lexington Institute. It is presented as an evaluation of the outcome of Proposition 227, a ballot measure Californians passed in 1998 that mandated the use of Structured English Immersion (SEI) instead of bilingual education.


The report was reviewed by Jeff MacSwan, an associate professor in the College of Education at Arizona State University whose research focuses on the linguistic study of bilingualism. MacSwan is currently serving as a Visiting Scholar at the Language Minority Research Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara.


Immersion Not Submersion claims that the Structured English Immersion technique mandated by the proposition is responsible for a “significant improvement in English proficiency across the state” among English Language learners (ELL). Proceeding from this assumption, the report then asserts that SEI strategies can overcome the effects of poverty and lower per-pupil funding.  MacSwan points out that neither the data presented nor could the author’s analysis of that data possibly support these conclusions.


“The Lexington Institute’s report suffers from poorly sampled data, inaccurate descriptions of district-level policies, failure to account for alternative explanations for observed changes in district testing data, and lack of any serious analysis of the data presented,” MacSwan writes.  “The report also fails to acknowledge or address recently published research studies whose conclusions are dramatically different from those presented in the report.”  MacSwan cites seven such studies, three of them commissioned by independent federal or state education agencies and the other three published in peer-reviewed journals.


“The report’s poorly sampled data, compounded by its inaccurate descriptions of district-level language program orientations, leads us to abandon all hopes that it might usefully inform education policy,” MacSwan writes.


Find the complete review by Jeff MacSwan as well as a link to the Lexington Institute report at:


About Think Twice


The Think Twice project provides the public, policy makers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected think tank publications. It is a collaboration of the Education Policy Studies Laboratory at Arizona State University and the Education and the Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder and is funded by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.


The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to identify, develop, support, publish and widely disseminate empirically sound research on education policy and practices designed to improve the quality of public education for all students within the Great Lakes Region. 

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