Former student says English immersion classes impacted his mental health

The head of Arizona's education department has been pushing for dual language immersion but a former student says it wasn't helpful.
Published: Sep. 21, 2023 at 4:25 PM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — There is a battle over dual language programs in Arizona. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne wants to prevent bilingual education for English learners. Instead, he is pushing for English immersion programs where students are taught primarily in English. Former student Erick Garcia said he was in an English immersion program when he moved to Mesa from Mexico in 1998. “To be quite honest, I don’t know how I made it,” said Garcia. “It was shocking because with math, which is universal, I did pretty well. The rest was a blur.”

While in fifth grade, Garcia said he was taught mostly in English and then was pulled from class to learn in Spanish for some time. He said it made him feel isolated and lost. “Very anxious, very nervous, sometimes defeating because I was an A student, did pretty well, extroverted. Coming here, I went into my little shell,” said Garcia.

He believes a dual language program would have been more beneficial. That is where kids learn 50% in English and 50% in Spanish all in the same classroom. “Self-esteem, it suffers from feeling dumb. I think that if I would have shared that with my peers, you are learning, I am learning, it feels more equal and builds relationships,” said Garcia.

Many Arizona schools have adopted dual language programs but Horne believes English immersion programs are more effective. He adds that teacher training in the programs has improved since Garcia was in school. “People are pushing back because they are influenced by ideology but not by real concern for the academic success of students. Data clearly shows students do better if they have been in structured English immersion than dual language,” said Horne.

Superintendent Horne is suing Gov. Katie Hobbs and Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, arguing dual language programs violate Prop. 203, which voters approved in 2000. It requires all students to only learn in English. Attorney General Kris Mayes believes schools are protected by a 2019 law allowing more flexibility in teaching English learners.

See a spelling or grammatical error in our story? Please click here to report it.

Do you have a photo or video of a breaking news story? Send it to us here with a brief description.