A History of Bilingual Education in the US

We recently published A History of Bilingual Education in the US by Sarah C.K. Moore. In this post the author briefly summarises the book’s content.

The Bilingual Education Act (BEA) (later Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) was signed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968 to promote bilingual-bicultural education programs. Many experts have dissected its systemic undoing – what the author of my new book’s Foreword, Terrence G. Wiley, Arizona State University Emeritus Professor and former President of the Center for Applied Linguistics, has referred to as ‘the sunsetting’ and ‘grand erasure’ of Title VII. An initial goal in my research for this book was to better understand the ‘Title VII Fellows Program’ – it funded postgraduate students seeking Masters and Doctoral level degrees enrolled in universities as part of the BEA. In addition to the ‘Title VII Fellows Program’, myriad other activities once supported bilingual education in the US.

This book offers sociohistorical snapshots and revisits periods during which aid for bilingual programs existed on a national scale. Although perhaps fleetingly, a time did exist when bilingual education in the US was supported by federally administered services. ‘The Network’ of the 1970s and later was comprised of a countrywide system of resource centers serving a combination of regions and language groups, including for materials development, dissemination and assessment activities, and bilingual educator training.

By the 1990s, ‘bilingual’ education connoted a particular political stance – one either in favor of endorsing language as a civil right or against ‘affirmative ethnicity’ (made mainstream by conservative Washington Post columnist, Noel Epstein during the 1980s). We widely accept that the BEA emerged in part from the Civil Rights and Chicanx movements of the same era; it was also politically agreeable, which benefited its marshaling to passage.

Contemporarily, most multilingual education programs are labeled Dual Language Education – an arguably deliberate middle-of-the-road phrasing less ‘politicized’ than the sullied ‘bilingual’ education. Dual Language Education programs are expanding across the country rapidly and the three states targeted by the English-Only Movement (California, Arizona, and Massachusetts) have either overturned or pulled back emphasis on English-priority instructional approaches for Emergent Bilingual students. Notably however, numerous scholars have laid out in striking detail examples of racism, linguistic imperialism and prejudicial ideologies often underlying in characteristics and implementation of these programs.

Given the history of bilingual education programs and supports enabled by the BEA and Title VII, now may be a pivotal time to examine whether these could be re-conceptualized in ways that serve existing and new programs – and also, fundamentally, position language as a civil right – in harmony with the 1968 conception of bilingual-bicultural education.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Dual Language Bilingual Education by Kathryn I. Henderson and Deborah K. Palmer.

Is Dual Language Education Fulfilling its Purpose?

We recently published Bilingualism for All? edited by Nelson Flores, Amelia Tseng and Nicholas Subtirelu. In this post the editors explain the current issues surrounding dual language education in the US.

Bilingualism is many things to many people. In US schools, some students’ bilingualism is taken as a sign of achievement and an investment in a cosmopolitan future, while other students’ bilingualism is treated as unbridled potential but is more readily seen as a barrier. For example, in an essay titled “How to dismantle elite bilingualism”, Nelson Flores argues that a variety of policy decisions and other factors coalesce to create “classrooms where elite bilinguals are framed as gifted and racialized bilinguals are framed as in need of remediation”. In particular, white students from affluent backgrounds are often celebrated for studying languages like Spanish in school, while bilingual BIPOC students are framed as having “gaps” in their achievement and language abilities.

Both of these ways of seeing students’ bilingualism have contributed to the current boom of dual language programs being offered in elementary and middle schools in the United States. Dual language programs grew by a factor of 10 between 2001 and 2015. Proponents of dual language immersion paint a picture of a classroom environment where everyone wins: students classified as English language learners strengthen their English, and other students get the opportunity to develop proficiency in an additional language, such as Spanish, all while building a multicultural community. This vision of inclusive and progressive education offered by dual language immersion programs is tantalizing. But is it being fulfilled?

The question of whether dual language education is fulfilling its purpose in serving vulnerable populations to the betterment of all is a critical topic. As an example, the city where we live, Washington, D.C., is on the cutting edge of dual language education, with many historic and more recent public and charter schools following a dual-language model. However, schools tend to be overwhelmingly white, leading the Washington Post to ask in 2018, “Are dual-language programs in urban schools a sign of gentrification?” This article highlights the popularity of elite bilingualism and a neoliberal perspective of “language as resource” where bilingual education is a hot commodity for white, middle-class Americans, whose needs and norms then dominate the schools, while racialized bilingual students remain marginalized within the same schools, and they and other racialized children are not able to access the schools and benefit from the programs.

Our new book, Bilingualism for All?, brings together the most recent research on these topics and more, from scholars who use a range of approaches to address educational equity. Their work takes a raciolinguistic perspective to examine the reproduction of racial inequities in classrooms, at the school and community level, and at the level of policy. They examine topics ranging from peer interactions, teaching, parent relationships, and school and district policies. Languages covered include Spanish, Korean, Hebrew, and English; research sites range from California and Utah to New York City and beyond. The book raises new questions, such as bilingual education and equity for disabled students, and engages directly with issues of racism and privilege. With the help of an outstanding group of scholars, our aim is for the book to put its finger on the question of whether dual language education is currently for the betterment of all, or increasingly for a select population that already enjoys many social privileges. It is our hope that the book will resonate not only with scholars, but with educators who may see these themes in their own schools and classrooms, and with future teachers. We believe in bilingual education as a critical support for educational equity and achievement, and in dual language immersion as a powerful and potentially transformative model. However, in order to achieve its potential, dual language education must confront the same structural inequities that permeate our institutions and are at the forefront of national debate.

Amelia Tseng, American University
tseng@american.edu

Nicholas Subtirelu, Georgetown University
Nicholas.Subtirelu@georgetown.edu

For more information about this book please see our website.

Dual Language Benefits All

This month we have published Profiles of Dual Language Education in the 21st Century edited by M. Beatriz Arias and Molly Fee. In this post, Beatriz explains the educational backdrop to the collection and explains the goals of its chapters.

“English Learners (ELs) and native English speakers (NES) gain access to key 21st century skills – bilingualism, biliteracy, and global awareness – through participation in dual language education programs.”(Lindholm-Leary and Genesee 2014)

The first Program in the US began fifty-five years ago, with Coral Way Elementary school in Dade County Florida. We have learned much about how to implement effective programs since 1963. In this volume we present the lessons learned across a variety of contexts.

Dual Language Programs, programs which use two languages for instruction, with the goal that students become bilingual, biliterate and culturally competent, are growing in popularity across the country. While it is difficult to estimate the exact number of programs, in the last twenty years, their number has grown from 260 to over 2500. A recent report indicated that 39 states and Washington, D.C. were offering dual-language education during the 2012-13 school year, with Spanish and Chinese programs cited as the most commonly used languages (DOE 2015).

Initially, dual language programs focused on instruction in the elementary school years, K through 6th grade. Success has been found to extend to those students who participate for at least 5-6 years in a program (Valentino & Reardon 2015). With the increase success rate of elementary students, the model has now extended to Pre-K and K settings as well as middle and high school classes. While it is not clear if the language allocation model used in elementary schools (usually 50% English and 50% partner language), is appropriate for early childhood settings, or middle and high schools, the dual language instructional model now spans from Pre-K to high school. Today it is possible for a student to enroll in a Dual Language program in Kindergarten and develop their bilingualism through high school culminating in a Seal of Biliteracy upon graduation. The Seal of Biliteracy is currently offered by 36 states and documents that students have mastered bilingualism and biliteracy in two languages.

What does it take to have a successful program? As an evaluator of dual language programs, I have had an opportunity to see first-hand the critical factors that comprise effective programs. The articles in this volume speak to specific components that are essential to program implementation: program planning, teacher preparation, community participation, professional development, and leadership. The interaction of these factors is reported in case studies of legacy programs and in the implementation of district-wide dual language programs. Community contexts matter and vary greatly between programs as well. This volume distills what we have learned in the last twenty years, from the research and implementation of dual language programs in the US.

Beatriz Arias Ph.D.

Center for Applied Linguistics

barias@cal.org

 

References:

Lindholm-Leary, K. J., & Genesee, F. (2014). Student outcomes in one-way, two-way, and indigenous language immersion education. Journal of Immersion and Content-Based Language Education, 2(2), 165–180.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of English Language Acquisition, Dual Language Education Programs: Current State Policies and Practices, Washington, D.C., 2015.

Valentino, R. A., & Reardon, S. F. (2015). Effectiveness of four instructional programs designed to serve English learners: Variation by ethnicity and initial English proficiency. Retrieved from http://cepa.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/Valentino_Reardon_EL Programs_14_0326_2.pdf