Bilingual Education

Bilingual education programs have been implemented for decades. Non-English
speaking students in bilingual education programs, however, have shown no
academic or social improvement compared to similar students in English-only
schools. The disadvantages of bilingual education programs outnumber the
advantages. In addition, recent statistics suggest the need for reconstruction
of the present bilingual education programs. Schools began teaching academics in
languages other than English as early as the 1700’s, but not until the

1960’s did society recognize the hundreds of thousands of non-English speaking
students struggling in the current system. Before that time, immigrants were
enrolled in non-English schools. The fight for a bilingual education program
started during the Civil Rights Movement. Immigrants, especially Latin and

Mexican Americans, observed the progress that African Americans were making and
decided to fight for "equal education." More than 50 percent of Spanish
speaking students were dropping out of school each year. The schools found a
definite need for intervention. In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the

Bilingual Education Act which provided federal assistance to school districts to
develop bilingual education programs. Bilingual education programs were designed
to teach non-English speaking students in their native language. Theoretically,
with this kind of instruction, students’ test scores and college admittance
would increase and lead to brighter career paths for students not proficient in

English. Federal law was expanded in 1974 when the Equal Education Opportunity

Act was signed in order to strengthen the rights of non-English speaking
students. This act ruled that public schools must provide programs for students
who speak little or no English. Rosalie Porter, author of "The Case Against

Bilingual Education," additionally points out that this was the first time
that the Federal Government "dictated" how non-English speaking students
should be educated (28). With such government support, bilingual education
looked like a program that would be the solution for the education of
non-English speaking students. Erie 2 The bilingual education program has a
noble purpose and worthwhile objectives. The purpose of the bilingual education
program is to teach non-English speaking students in their native language,
therefore improving their academic achievement and giving them more educational
opportunities. Noted writer Brian Taylor author of "English for the

Children," points out the many objectives of the bilingual education program:
the first objective is to teach students basic academic subjects in their native
language therefore increasing their academic progress. The program was also
designed to teach the students both reading and writing skills in their native
language and eventually to immerse them into classes taught in English. Students
in bilingual education programs learn English from the time they enter school.

All their academic classes, however, are taught in their native language. After
three years of English instruction, students are put into English-only classes.

The purpose of these objectives is to preserve the students’ culture at school
(Taylor). As reported from "Education Week on the Web," bilingual education
programs are based on a maintenance program which preserves the students’
native language skills while teaching English as a second language ("Bilingual

Education"). This program would make it easier for the student to learn

English without risking success in academic classes. Bilingual education
programs sound beneficial; however, after implementation for over 30 years, the
results seen from bilingual education are not as positive as one would expect.

Bilingual education programs have not lived up to expectations. Bilingual
education programs are costing the United States billions of dollars. Statistics
show that students in these programs are not showing academic improvement. The
programs rely too much on native languages which leads to further segregation.

Students in California have suffered the most from bilingual education programs.

More than 25 percent (1.4 million) of the students in California public schools
are not proficient in English, and only five percent are gaining proficiency
each year. Many students leave school with limited spoken English and almost no
ability to read and write in English (Taylor). In some cases, California
students in bilingual education programs have taken more than eight years to
complete, rather than the expected three years. Each year, only six Erie 3
percent of Californian children in bilingual education classes are adequately
prepared to move into English classes. Unfortunately, drop-out rates are also
increasing. Seventeen percent of Hispanics in bilingual classes drop out
compared to the ten percent in English instruction classes. Latinos in bilingual
education programs have statistics similar to those of students in English-only
schools (Taylor). Bilingual education programs are not solving the problem they
were intended to solve. National test scores have shown that bilingual education
students are improving at the same rate as students taught only in English.

Gregory Rodreguez reports on the study done by Mark Lopez from the University of

Maryland and Marie Mora from New Mexico State University which reveals the
effect bilingual education has on the earnings of Latinos. First and second
generation Latinos who were enrolled in bilingual education classes earned
significantly less than similar peers who received "monolingual English
instruction" (17). Bilingual education programs are not improving the
financial success of non-English proficient students. If the results are no
better than these statistics show, what is the purpose of keeping these
programs? Furthermore, the cost of bilingual education programs is outrageous.

In 1968, the first year that bilingual education programs were executed, the
cost was 7.5 million dollars. Since then, the United States has spent more than

400 million dollars each year on bilingual education programs. States also need
additional funding to hire and train paraprofessionals, and some programs even
pay college tuition for paraprofessionals so that they may qualify as teachers
(Porter 30). Betsy Streisand, author of "Is It Hasta la Vista for Bilingual

Education?" reports that bilingual education teachers receive an extra 5,000
dollars annually for teaching. In the future funding could include more than

20,000 teachers. State and Federal governments have spent hundreds of millions
of dollars of public money over 30 years implementing bilingual education
programs, and the programs have not shown to work successfully (Streisand).

Another problem of teaching students in their native language is that this
approach keeps the students from progressing in English and keeps them too
dependent on their native language. Erie 4 Bilingual education programs have
been so focused on keeping the students’ native language and culture alive
that students are refraining from using English. In bilingual education
programs, students speak their native language both at school and at home. Since
they have no immediate use for English, the students speak primarily in their
native language. Students refraining from using English, possibly explains the
reason for the low success rate for students in bilingual education programs.

The programs need to be reconstructed so that the students spend more time
speaking and hearing English. Reconstruction may lead to a more successful
program. Another problem with these programs is that it tends to lead to
segregation. The idea behind bilingual education has grown outside of its
original mission of teaching English and has lead to further segregation of
non-English speaking students (Porter 31). In bilingual education programs,
students only converse with other students in their native language. Even when
enrolled in English taught classes, the students of bilingual education programs
tend to remain segregated from the rest of the student body because they were
secluded for so long in their previous bilingual education classes. In a diverse
society such as the United States, segregation only leads to conflict. When Kirk

Douglas, author of "Bilingual Education," describes the United States as a"country of immigrants," he illustrates how the United States influx of
cultures has made us stronger as a nation. He maintains that if bilingual
education inhibits the coherence of our society it should not still be
implemented (37). The United States is a melting pot of different cultures. When
students are educated in their native language and learn to rely only on it,
then they do not blend with the rest of society. Robert King, author of

"Should English be the Law?" states that "language is tearing apart
countries around the world" (57). The United States should not become another
victim. Speaking English is a necessary skill needed to succeed in the United

States. The United States’ job is to educate all people and teach all people

English. Bilingual education programs may inhibit the reality of this goal. In
contrast, Richard Rothstein, author of "Bilingual Education: The

Controversy," argues that " teaching in ones native language reinforces ones
self-worth" (672). Erie 5 Statistics, however, show that "self-esteem is not
higher among limited English students who are taught in their native
language." In addition, statistics prove that stress is not higher for
students introduced to English from the first day of school (Porter 32). Even
parents of non-English speaking students recognize that bilingual education
programs are not working. Latin and Mexican Americans were the ones who sought
equal education opportunity in the first place, and they are the ones who are
least satisfied with the present system. The Latino opposition to
native-language teaching is now more apparent than ever (Porter 31). Immigrants
witness the importance of the English language, and they want to see their
children learn it as soon as possible. They are seeing no improvement in their
children’s’ English from the current bilingual education programs and are in
desperate need of a program that will successfully teach their children English
(Streisand). Surveys have been taken for the past ten years concerning the
current bilingual education programs. A recent survey of 600 Latino parents,
taken by the National Center of Equal Opportunity, showed that the majority
thought learning English was more important than learning to read and write in

Spanish. The survey also showed that parents favored learning English over
learning other academic subjects. In 1988, a survey was taken by the Educational

Testing Service who questioned over 2900 Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Asian

Americans about bilingual education. The results showed that the majority felt
it was the family’s duty to teach children their native language, not the
schools. Parents of non-English speaking children want their children to succeed
academically, and know that learning the English language is the first step
toward that goal. Bilingual education programs were designed to help these
students but unfortunately the programs are only creating further hostility and
frustration for these students who desperate to learn English (Porter 31).

Parents of students enrolled in bilingual education programs have done many
things to try to end bilingual education. In 1997, parents of children enrolled
in the bilingual education programs at the 9th street Elementary school in Los

Angeles, California, kept their children out of Erie 6 school until the school
board agreed to remove them from bilingual education programs. The protest
lasted two weeks (Streisand). Parents have also taken legal measures. A law suit
was filed in September of 1995 when 150 parents from Brooklyn Public schools
were angered that their children remained segregated in bilingual education
programs for three to six years despite the State Education Law that states that
students be immersed in English classes after three years. Even after more than
three years of instruction, students were still not receiving adequate English
instruction (Porter 31). If bilingual education programs were formed to help
non-English speaking students, then why are they are the ones most against the
programs? Evidently, bilingual education programs are failing and that they need
to be reformed. California has taken the initiative. On June 2, 1998, California
passed Ron Unz’s Proposition 227, "English for the Children." The

Proposition requires non-English speaking students to be enrolled in classes in
which nearly all the instruction is in English. Ben Wildavsky, author of "Put
a Stop to Bilingual Education--Now!" reports that although some school
districts have not been following the Proposition. However, Ron Unz points out
that "the bulk of the school districts around the state seem to be moving in
the direction of the initiative" (Wildavsky). Even other states are beginning
to take the initiative. The prediction is that a similar initiative will occur
on the 2000 ballot in Arizona. Another advantage of Proposition 227 is that it
gives the families the right to decide for their children. The Proposition
states that with the parents’ request, students can be put back into bilingual
education programs. This amendment has been very positive in California. It has
given the supporters of bilingual education an alternative to Proposition 227.

Proposition 227 consists of "immersion" programs. Immersion programs involve
students learning lessons in simple language and slowly immersing themselves in
the English language. The immersion technique requires non-English speaking
students to be in classes where nearly all instruction is done in English, but
at a slower pace. With this technique, most students become fluent in English
after just a year before being switched into all English classes. Initially
opposed to the three year program introduced by bilingual education, teachers

Erie 7 have already reported that the students in immersion classes are picking
up spoken English rapidly. They are learning far more English than in the past.

With the implementation of Proposition 227, impressive results have already
occurred. Limited English students in California who transferred into immersion
classes under Proposition 227 scored 20, 50 or even 100 percent better on state
wide tests compared to their peers who remained in bilingual education classes.

Other states have also witnessed these results and are beginning to form similar
initiatives (Wildavsky). Entrepreneur Guy W. Glodis is working on a reform in

Massachusetts which revolves around the idea of immersion classes. Glodis is
aware that the current "bilingual education programs are not meeting the needs
of the students" (n. pag.). With more than an 84 percent support rate from the

Latino culture, Proposition 227 appears to be the solution for the future of
education for limited English speaking youth. Implemented in 1968, bilingual
education had the best humanitarian intentions but turned out "terribly
wrongheaded." Obviously a definite need for reform exists. From the results in

California, immersion programs seem to be in the best interest for non-English
proficient children. English is "the crucial skill that leads to equal
opportunity in school, jobs and public life in the United States." It is
evident that bilingual education needs to be abolished and immersion programs
implemented. If immersion programs were implemented and enforced throughout the

United States, they would result in a brighter future for the United States’
non-English proficient youth (Glodis).


"Bilingual Education." Education Week on the Web. (1999): n.pag. Online.

Internet. 31 Jan. 2000. Available:

Douglas, Kirk. "Bilingual Education." New York Times Upfront 1 Nov. 1999:

37. Glodis, Guy W. "Current Bilingual Education Fails." Worcester, MA

Telegram and Gazette 27 Jan. 2000: n.pag. Online. Internet. 10 Feb. 2000. King,

Robert D. "Should English be the Law?" The Atlantic Monthly April 1997:

55-64. Online. Internet. 11 Feb. 2000. Porter, Rosalie. "The Case Against

Bilingual Education." The Atlantic Monthly May 1998: 28-32. Rodreguez,

Gregory. "English Lesson in California." The Nation 20 April 1998: 15-17.

Rothstein, Richard. "Bilingual Education: The Controversy." Phi Delta Kappan

May 1998: 672. Proquest. Online. Internet. 11 Feb. 2000. Streisand, Betsy. "Is
it Hasta la Vista for Bilingual Education?" U.S. News Online: Citizens Toolbox
(1999): n.pag. Online. Internet. 11 Feb. 2000. Available:

Taylor, Brian. "English for the Children." 1997: n.pag. Online. Internet. 5

Feb. 2000. Available: Wildavsky, Ben. "Put a Stop to

Bilingual Education! Manana!" U.S. News and World Report 5 April 1999: n.pag.

Works Consulted Horsburgh, Susan. "Divided by Language: Northern Territory

Axes Bilingual Education for Aborigines, Sparking Charges of Cultural

Neglect." Time International 22 Feb. 1999: 46. Zelasko, Nancy F. "Bilingual

Education." World Book Encyclopedia. 1998 ed.