Saturday, December 14, 2013

Bilingual Education

I don't support it.  There's no evidence it works.  I've written on this subject since the earliest days of this blog, and even before.

My best friend at West Point was from Nogales, Arizona, a border town.  I wouldn't have paid any attention to this article had I not seen that it featured Nogales, but it's good that I read it:
Then, again ahead of the times, NUSD decided to teach all in English from kindergarten on. Students receive Spanish language classes starting in middle school, and Nogales High School offers a full range of classes including Spanish literature in both Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate.

Dozens of students, even monolingual-English speakers, score high enough to completely meet the two years of Spanish needed for most college programs, earning as many as 16 credits before even starting.
The proof is in the results. The AIMS scores for all grade levels have increased from percentiles in the 40s to the 80s. Last year Wade Carpenter Middle School was the top Title One school in the state and this year Francisco Vasquez de Coronado Elementary School won one of four National Blue Ribbon awards given to Arizona.

While the vast majority graduate with a conversational fluency in both languages, many are not academically bilingual, especially the handful of Anglo students who only take conversational Spanish. Those who opt to take Spanish classes beyond the required minimum have soared, but only because they had a solid foundation in English and not a mishmash of “visionary” curricula. 
I'm not a fan of pull-out bilingual classes, or transitional bilingual programs, or any of the other fads that ebb and flow amongst the bilingual ed types.  I'm also not in favor of sink-or-swim.  What makes sense to me, and what has evidence showing it works, is "structured immersion"; immersion, as in sink-or-swim, but with enough structural assistance built into the instruction that the student isn't going to sink.

I've written much on the topic, you can get a good background here and here.

1 comment:

Auntie Ann said...

Here in Los Angeles, though there is a dominant second language, a single school can have kids from all over the world and who speak a dozen or more languages (Tagalog, Russian, Urdu, etc.) The only way schools can handle it, is if they work with everyone in English. Families are lucky if there is even one teacher in the school who can talk to them in their dominant language.