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Reading and Language Outcomes of a Five-Year Randomized Evaluation of Transitional Bilingual Education

Abstract

This paper reports the fifth-year results of a study comparing the English and Spanish language and reading performance of Spanish-dominant children randomly assigned beginning in kindergarten to Transitional Bilingual Education (TBE) or Structured English Immersion (SEI). This is the first randomized study to compare TBE and SEI reading approaches over a period as long as five years. As expected, on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) and its Spanish equivalent (TVIP) and on English and Spanish versions of three Woodcock Reading Scales, kindergartners and first graders in TBE performed significantly better in Spanish and worse in English than their SEI counterparts, controlling for PPVT and TVIP. After transitioning to English, TBE children in grades 2-4 scored significantly lower than those in SEI on the measure of receptive vocabulary, the PPVT, but there were no significant differences on most English reading measures. On the Spanish language (TVIP) and reading measures, TBE students scored significantly higher than SEI in grades K-3, but not grade 4. Both groups gained substantially in English receptive language skills over the years. These findings suggest that Spanish-dominant students learn to read in English (as well as Spanish) equally well in TBE and SEI.

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