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You are here: Home > Teaching Tips for Books You've Purchased > School Tips & Education Articles > Bilingual Education

Bilingual Education


Bilingual Education went up to the Supreme Court in Lau vs. Nichols 1974.  The court ruled that students need to be given equal access to education, even if they donít understand English.  The issue in the San Francisco school district was not providing English instruction to 1800 Chinese students who did not understand English.  The court ruled this violated the civil rights act of 1964 and the fourteenth amendment.  The fourteenth amendment equal protection clause has been interpreted to give the right for equal education (Johnson, 190).  The case argued that by providing the exact same education to people who did not understand English, as for regular students, was a subtle form of discrimination.

The response in California was the 1974 Chacůn-Moscone Bilingual-Bicultural Education Act establishing transitional bilingual education programs to meet the needs of Limited English Proficient (LEP) students.  In 1998, Proposition 227 passed by more than a two thirds majority of voters and eliminated most bilingual education in public schools in California. One year of sheltered English classes for LEP students was allowed, with a two year maximum.  Parents can sign a waiver to allow their children to be taught bilingually.  There is also a provision in the proposition that teachers can be sued if they donít provide a majority of instruction in English.   To date, this provision has not been used to actually sue a teacher.

Different school districts have had different interpretations on the Proposition 227 requirements for teaching LEP students.  Some districts have abandoned instructional material in Spanish and replaced it with English only material.  Other districts still use Spanish Material, and have a gradual process that has instruction in Spanish being slowly replaced it with English instruction (which was the system in place before).  Personally, I have seen instruction for ESL classes vary depending on the teacher.  Some bilingual teachers with ESL classes do the majority of instruction in Spanish, while others do it in English.  I have also noticed in some ESL classes a mixture of material both in English and Spanish.  One problem I have seen with segregating students based entirely on being ESL students, is often students from India and China are doing math work below their ability.  What I have done in classes is use student translators to keep all students up to speed on what needs to be done in class.

Special education students who are English Language Learners have issues that are impacted by Proposition 227.  An example is the two-year deadline for instruction in other than English. With special education students this may not be feasible since they may have learning disabilities.  If this is an issue, the parent should sign a waiver allowing instruction in the childís native language and this would need to be incorporated into the IEP (Individual Education Plan).

In summary, bilingual education today in California is going through considerable changes.  Proposition 227 probably will not be changed in the near future due to itís popular support and perceived results, compared to what it replaced.  Bilingual Education prior to 227 in the state of California was usually not true bilingual education, and varied tremendously in methods and quality.  For teachers in a bilingual or ESL class, I recommend follow the recommendations of the school district on use of English and Foreign Languages in a class to avoid possible personal lawsuits.  Getting waivers from parents for any possible problems is prudent.  Proposition 227 has changed how bilingual education is taught in California, the research is contradictory if this is for the better or worse.  One fact is it significantly increases the legal liability of public school teachers in the classroom who teach in a language other than English, if the proper processes (paperwork) are not followed.

References:

Ryan M. (2003) Ask the teacher: A practitionerís guide to teaching and learning to the diverse classroom  (2nd ed.) Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Johnson, J.A., Dupuis, V.L., Musial, D., Hall, G.E., and Gollnick, D. (2002). Introduction to the foundations of American Education (12th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

History of Bilingual Education, http://coe.sdsu.edu/people/jmora/Pages/HistoryBE.htm n/d, retrieved June 20, 2004.

IA1a Lau vs. Nichols, http://faculty.ucmerced.edu/khakuta/LAU/IAPolicy/IA1aLauvNicholsDiscuss. n/d, retrieved June 20, 2004.

 

What hath Prop. 227 wrought?
What's the fallout of Dismantling bilingual education? http://www.cta.org/CaliforniaEducator/v6i2/feature_fallout.htm October 2001, California Educator, Volume 6, Issue 2


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