LINGUISTICS & CULTURE
|Data:||02/SET/2004 8:35 AM|
|Assunto:||Bilingual vs monolingual education in US|
Bilingual Education and Reality—The Proof is Here
Jun 10, 2004
Hispanic Link Weekly Report, April 5, 2004
[ Domenico Maceri ]
When in 1998 California voters approved Proposition 227, which virtually eliminated bilingual education from the Golden State, they were sold the idea that with one year of immersion kids would learn English. The unfortunate result has been that only 7% of English language learners have become proficient.
Opponents of Proposition 227 used arguments based on research to make their point, but voters listened to Ron Unz, the software entrepreneur who spearheaded the proposition.
Now additional research released recently suggests that California voters were duped.
Robert Slavin of Johns Hopkins Unity and Alan Cheung of the Success for All Foundation analyzed more than three decades of research and found the bilingual education programs produce higher levels of student achievement in reading than English-only methodologies. English-only approaches were never more efficient than bilingual education, it concluded.
The report has not received much publicity, but it certainly should become familiar to education officials across the country, particularly in California, Arizona and Massachusetts, which eliminated bilingual education programs through the initiative process.
The report analyzed data from 17 studies conducted over the course of 30 years.
To be included in the analysis, the studies had to compare bilingual instruction to English-only instruction, and there had to be evidence that the two groups of students were comparable when the study began.
COMPLEX ISSUE REDUCED TO SIMPLE CHOICE
The new research is important because bout 20% of US Students come from homes in which English is not primary language. In addition, the number of students studying English as a new language went up by 72% in the last ten years.
It is estimated that almost 50% of all teachers in the United States have at least one student whose native language is not English. The figure rises dramatically in parts of the country with high concentrations of immigrants. English learners are the majority in certain school districts.
Unfortunately, 59 percent of the four million English learners are taught in English. In California, the figure is 90%.
These students will in all likelihood be most at risk of not achieving new federal and state goals for adequate progress required by the No Child Left Behind Act.
The John Hopkins/Success for All Foundation study confirms that educational policy should not be determined by voters who in a lot of cases have little or no knowledge of instructional methodology.
Unfortunately, the three states that virtually abolished bilingual education reduced a complex issue to a simple choice between English and Spanish. Of course, most voters opted for English.
While English is very important, it’s not the only thing involved in education. Students are affected by a myriad of other factors, which bilingual education programs take into account. The most significant among them is the recognition that a child’s language should be the starting point for the educational development.
PARENTS, TEACHERS MUST BE PARTNERS
Bilingual education takes into account the role parents play in the education process. Thus, if the parents don’t speak English, teachers make an effort to communicate with them in their language. Developing a partnership between teacher and parents is essential since both have a serious impact on students’ learning.
One criticism of bilingual education focuses on the segregation of immigrant kids from English-speaking peers. The idea is that students learn from not only teachers, but from other kids as well.
It’s a valid argument and that’s part of the reason why some schools have opted to create dual-language programs. In these situations English speakers and immigrant students spend half of the school day learning subjects in English and the other half in a second language. The idea is for both groups to learn the two languages.
The Slavin/Cheung report showed that while bilingual education is more effective than English-only programs, dual language students do better than the other two groups.
The great value of dual-language programs is that they not only provide quality education for immigrant kids, but they improve the education of U.S.-born students.
The federal government provides some funds to implement dual-language programs. San Bernardino schools in California received $1,375,000 over five years to implement their program.
Since California passed its anti-bilingual education initiative, 93% of immigrant children have failed to learn English in one year.
Is it time to make a change? This latest study suggests this much.
Domenico Maceri, Ph.D., UC Santa Barbara, teaches foreign languages at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, Calif. He may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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