Bilingual Education Essay, Research Paper
I am sure that if I was improperly placed in a bilingual program, others have also. How does this happen? What characteristics show school officials that a student needs the classes to begin with? These officials seem to think that standardized tests and parent questionnaires will identify who is in need of ESL, but this system allows students who are not really LEP to be placed in the program. And in order to keep the students out of the program, parents have to attend a conference with school officials. At such meetings, parents are often intimidated and criticized about their decisions and so they leave their children in the program.1 And once the student is in, schools keep them in there as long as possible because to them, it means more money.
In 1968, advocates of bilingual education started a small, 7.5 million dollar program to educate Hispanic children. By 1996, the program had become a multi-billion dollar industry. The federal program spends seventy-five percent of education tax dollars on bilingual education. Schools that offer bilingual classes get incentives such as federal and state grants. They also receive several hundred extra dollars for each student in a bilingual class. Teachers can earn up to five thousand dollars more a year. These incentives can explain why schools keep children in bilingual programs for such a long time. They want to get as much money as possible.
A typical student spends three to four years in an ESL program, but it could take as long as eight years to be fluent in English. Why is it that Hispanics are wasting time in bilingual classes that are not helping them master the language they desperately want to learn? At the same time, Arab, Asian, and European students go into mainstream classes and achieve higher academic scores and with a lower dropout rate than Hispanics, who after twenty-eight years of bilingual programs, still hold the highest dropout rate and the lowest test scores in the country.
Advocates of bilingual education claim that, according to Jim Cummings, knowledge and skills acquired in the native language literacy in particular are transferable to the second language and do not need to be relearned in English so there is no reason to rush students into mainstream classes . Advocates interpret Cummings to mean that students would be best prepared for learning English by first learning their native language proficiently, but in practice, these notions work against the goals of bilingual education-language mastery and academic achievement in English mainstream classrooms . Cummings hypothesis also assumes that children in bilingual programs belong there, which in many cases is not true.
My uncle teaches a bilingual class in Houston and says that students are placed in the program depending on whether or not they pass the TAAS test. If they don t pass, they don t go mainstream. How logical is that? These children may have other problems, but school officials seem oblivious to them. Instead, they place them in bilingual programs. How can the children learn English if they suffer from learning disabilities? An even greater problem arises when English proficient students are placed in bilingual classes simply because they fail to pass the TAAS. This transforms bilingual classes into remedial classes for students rather than helping non-proficient students English.
Even mothers of students who are not English proficient would rather have their children in mainstream classes. In the last ten years, surveys of the parents of limited-English students have shown that the majority give greater importance to their children learning English and being taught subjects in English than in Spanish. In a study conducted by the Educational Testing Service Mexican parents were asked if they wanted schools to teach reading and writing in both Spanish and English. Seventy percent answered yes, but when they were asked if they wanted Spanish taught if it meant less time for teaching English, only twelve percent were still in favor. Latino parents consider learning English more important than learning other subjects and especially more important than learning to read and write in Spanish. They want their children to learn English as soon as possible because they correctly believe that English literacy is the key to success in the United States . Immigrants fear that if their children do not learn English, their economic futures will be hopeless and that their reason for immigrating to the U.S, -to provide better lives for their children-would have been in vain. They know that unless they are fluent in English, their children will not attend college and will have to settle for low-paying jobs . School principals, counselors, and teachers sometimes play on ethnic pride to try to keep children in the programs. They insist that Latin children need to be taught in Spanish to improve their self-esteem, but many parents aren t buying it any more. They are fighting to give their children the education they want and deserve. The effects of such determination can be seen today in the state of California. California has become the best example of why bilingual education should be done away with. Despite all of the rhetoric decrying how California s non-English-speaking students would be harmed by the new English-immersion, just one year after Proposition 227 forced English immersion into California’s classrooms test scores in one school soared in every subject and for all ages. Seventh-graders, for instance, improved their reading scores by 475 percent and math scores by 155 percent. Across grade levels, reading scores rose on average by more than 180 percent and math scores by 120 percent . As expected, the greatest gains were made in school districts that chose the strictest interpretation of the initiative and implemented the most intensive English-immersion programs. Although LEP students in all grade levels showed improvement, there was less improvement for older students.
This suggests that younger students benefited most from English immersion classes while older students, who presumably had benefited from bilingual education previously, benefited the least. The most likely conclusion is that English immersion works best for younger students, contrary to the assertion of bilingual advocates that delaying English instruction until a student is older produces better results in terms of English achievement (read-institute.org).
In the end, the English immersion program was a huge success. There can be no doubt that Proposition 227 is working and continues to benefit California s language-minority students . If only the other states like Texas, Arizona, and Colorado who still implement bilingual education would learn from California, students nation-wide would be doing as well as those in California.
Some people, though, still believe that by doing away with bilingual education we do away with our culture, while others consider it to be discriminatory, but it s time to see reality: bilingualism does not work. It never has and it never will. If we continue to support it, we will only be hurting those students who will remain forever behind their native English-speaking counterparts California found that out, but how long will it take the rest of us?
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