Skip to comments.[Texas:]Bilingual program debated
Posted on 07/08/2007 6:44:42 PM PDT by SwinneySwitch
AUSTIN Put young children who struggle with English in a classroom with English-speaking students and teach in two languages.
Soon, both groups of children will become bilingual and bi-literate with the youngsters helping each other develop two languages, say supporters of such dual-language immersion.
But others are balking at the experiment that Texas lawmakers approved this spring, contending it's turning children into guinea pigs.
With House Bill 2814, legislators created a six-year pilot program that will test a dual-language program in up to 10 Texas public school districts and 30 campuses.
English was not the first language of more than 731,000 children attending Texas public schools last school year. Those children, identified as "limited English proficient" students, spoke more than 100 foreign languages, although the most common by far was Spanish spoken by 92 percent of the non-English speakers.
"We know that dual language works, but we have failed to articulate the benefits of placing native English speakers in dual-language programs," said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, sponsor of the Senate version of the bill. "They will learn Spanish or some other language, becoming bilingual and bi-literate. When they are little, you can do that."
How it works
House Bill 2814 establishes a dual-language education pilot program to study the effectiveness of dual-language education by placing both native English-speaking and non-English-speaking students together in the same classroom.
The commissioner of education will choose up to 10 school districts and 30 schools to participate in the project.
The first year of the project is limited to hiring and training teachers and establishing parental and community support for the program.
The Texas Education Agency must submit an interim report to the Legislature by Jan. 1, 2011, and a final report by Jan. 1, 2013. The reports must show the effect of the project on grade-level completion rates and high school graduation rates.
Learning multiple languages should always be encouraged, said Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, although she opposes the pilot project approach.
"I think the purpose behind this is to help bring up to speed Spanish-speaking kids and turning other kids into guinea pigs," she said.
House Public Education Committee Chairman Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, said, "The bottom line of life is that we don't all speak the same language." He acknowledged that national debate over immigration has triggered "deep-seated antagonism."
The dual-language method will benefit English-speaking children by giving them a second language, and children will have "built-in tutors sitting next to them," he said. "The kids will teach each other."
The Senate voted 28-2 for the dual-language immersion pilot project, and the House approved the measure 106-34. No Democrat opposed the bill. Among Bexar County lawmakers, only Rep. Frank Corte voted against the bill. He could not be reached for comment.
Riddle said she fears the project will dilute the need for students to master English, which is the international language of aviation and a requirement if children want to become lawyers or physicians.
"I think we are worshipping at the feet of diversity," Riddle said. "There's nothing wrong with diversity, but to minimize English as the primary language of this nation is a mistake, and I think it's a mistake for our kids. Kids need to master the English language, period.
"When you lose the language of a country, then you lose the culture and you lose everything. If we want to keep our country, we need to all be speaking the same language. That language is English."
The issue should not focus on immigration because the law requires Texas to educate all children living here, said Jesse Romero, a San Antonio-based legislative consultant for the Texas Association For Bilingual Education.
"If they are going to be educated, let's do it the right way," Romero said. "If we don't educate the children, we're not going to have a viable work force, and if we don't have a viable and educated work force, we're not going to be attractive to the economic development that our state leaders continue to say that Texas is all about."
Eissler said opponents of his bill believe "immigrants need to bend to us rather than us to them."
But he views the issue in terms of education.
"The more you know, the better off you are, is my theory of life. The more we can teach our kids, the better off we're going to be," Eissler said. "The younger you are, the more adept you are in learning another language, so why do we wait (until) high school to teach language?"
Studies have shown that it costs about 40 percent more to educate limited English students. Texas gives school districts an extra 10 percent of state funding for such students.
Only 8 percent of limited English proficient 10th-graders passed all parts of the state's assessment test in the 2005-06 school year, according to the Texas Education Agency.
And the number of limited English children is increasing. While they made up about 16 percent of all public school children last year, they made up 27 percent of first-graders.
More than 40 percent of the first-grade children in the state's largest urban school districts Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth were limited English proficient.
"These school districts do represent a growing statewide trend, and it does pose a significant challenge to our educators," Van de Putte said. "The reality is that the numbers are increasing. We can wring our hands and say the federal government needs to take care of this. But that doesn't help us with outcomes."
Elena Izquierdo, president of the Texas Association for Bilingual Education, is optimistic about the pilot project.
"I think if done the way it should be, if it's well developed with training and well implemented, supervised and monitored, I think they will have some of the top scores in two languages, not just one," said Izquierdo, an associate professor of bilingual education at the University of Texas at El Paso. "It's way overdue that we do this."
Research shows children who learn two languages at an early age outscore students in traditional monolingual classrooms, she said.
"When you are young, you develop a proficiency in sounding like a native speaker of that language, which is why it's a win-win situation for your English-speaking child."
Most Texans probably are not aware of the challenges facing educators with large numbers of limited English proficient students, she said.
Under the program, half of each class where possible would consist of English-speaking children.
Riddle said children should study foreign languages in a separate course and that schools should not force them to learn academic subjects in two languages.
She also believes Spanish-speaking children should learn English by being immersed in English. Some believe that English immersion is the most effective approach.
Izquierdo disagreed. "English immersion is not as positive. It's saying you are broken, and we have to fix you. Teachers are not trained. I call them submersion programs."
How about none, Izquierdo?
"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus
Bilingual education destroys children, turning them into intellectual cripples in American society.
Liberals love these soul-destroying biligual programs, since it ensures them an on-going supply of cheap maids, nannys and gardeners.
I agree. It amazes me how many people cannot properly speak English (and insist on using ‘s to make a word plural - drives me NUTS)
Seems to me the most important thing is for them all to learn to speak correct ENGLISH!
If you want on, or off this S. Texas/Mexico ping list, please FReepMail me.
“...although the most common by far was Spanish spoken by 92 percent of the non-English speakers.”
If my children were to be multi-lingual it should be in the language of another first-world country....education is supposed to advance one...not retard them...
Another case of the blind leading the blind while the teacher sinks deeper into the role of facilitator.
Oh this is just great. Now our children can fail in two languages...this is progress.
Because, if things dont change soon, Spanish will the dominant language spoken in the good ol US of A. Dont you want your kids able to speak the commerce language of America?
What happens is the children will develop a CREOLE language, which is a blend of the 2 or 3 most dominant languages tolerated in their group environment.
Their command of any of the other languages will wither and die as the CREOLE takes over.
Darn, I think I’ll just give this up and go back home to Lon Giland.
He is crazy. Just teach the kids English from kindergarten to say, third grade. Some will learn quicker and they can be individually integrated as they learn.
Uh in a word..no. While Spanish may replace English in the service sector it will never replace it in big business...as English is more of a "world" language than any other...
There’s one, 1, uno, language in this country! ENGLISH!! F’n teach that...you morons. GAWD! I swear! These people will incrementalize this country into one vast piece of NOTHING with NO culture, NO history, NO individualism! We’ll all be on the same level with worms and ants soon!!
We probably need to deport at lease 90 % of the Spanish speaking kids (along with their families) and there you have it: Problem solved!
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