In light of what is happening to bilingual education in this county, I wanted to take a moment to explain the facts to you. Bilingual education has become very controversial in recent years, although it really shouldn't be. The purpose of bilingual education is two-fold. The first is to teach English through "comprehensible input." For those of you who have ever learned a second language, you probably remember that the teacher pointed to and said, "table," before teaching you the word "mesa." Your new vocabulary was much more comprehensible when the teacher tied it to your native language, especially for abstract words and concepts. For those of you who have ever traveled to a country where you did not speak the language, you probably didn't learn much of that language because what you did hear was not in the form of "comprehensible input." The second goal of bilingual education is to continue a child's education in basic concepts while they learn English. It takes 2-3 years for a child to acquire conversational English but 3-6 years to acquire academic English. If we immerse children in English only programs it will be at least 2 years until they have enough English to understand a minimal amount of instruction. We have all had students that are years behind in their instruction and know that it is virtually impossible to bring them up to grade level.
There is lots of educational, cognitive, and linguistic research that backs up bilingual education and proves that it is the best way to educate language minority children in both English and content areas. Many people speaking out against bilingual education these days are neither educators nor bilingual, and yet they call themselves experts. Many of you will be faced with taking a stand about bilingual education in the near future please make your decision based on facts and fair educational practices without letting politics and racism get in the way. These immigrant children are going to be a part of our society, whether we like it or not, so lets make sure that they have the chance to become productive members of society rather than English speaking illiterates.
Please feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions or would like more information.