Is bilingual education report being downplayed?

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Mon Aug 29 12:49:08 UTC 2005

>>From USA Today,

Is bilingual education report being downplayed?
By Greg Toppo, USA TODAY

The government will not publish a report it commissioned on bilingual
education and critics say that's because the Bush administration disagrees
with the findings, which cast doubt on the efficacy of teaching immigrant
children through English-only lessons. The U.S. Education Department
appointed the National Literacy Panel, a non-partisan group of university
researchers, in May 2002 to do a two-year study taking "a good, hard look
at the existing research" on bilingual education. At the time, Russ
Whitehurst, assistant secretary for Education Research and Improvement,
noted that the No Child Left Behind education reform law "puts a strong
emphasis on using education practices and programs based on sound,
scientifically-based research."

The new findings were submitted in draft form last spring, but the panel's
chairman on Wednesday said Whitehurst plans to give publishing rights back
so the panel can find its own publisher. That brought criticism from Bruce
Fuller, a professor at the University of California-Berkeley, who says the
decision echoes others in which the administration has downplayed research
with which it disagreed.

"A lot of us have applauded the secretary of education and the White House
science adviser for pushing higher-quality experimental designs in
education, so now we can test school reforms in the same way we test drugs
or food additives," says Fuller. "But even after we meet these high
standards, the administration doesn't necessarily listen to the results."
Over the past several years, conservative activists nationwide have
advocated abandoning bilingual programs for new immigrant children in
favor of English-only instruction. But James Crawford, executive director
of the National Association for Bilingual Education, a professional
association for teachers, says that contradicts "a large body of
educational research."

Whitehurst was not immediately available for comment. Education Department
spokesman Chad Colby declined to comment on the report. Bush hasn't
advocated so-called English immersion, but No Child Left Behind requires
that immigrant children be tested in English after three years. Exceptions
are allowed, at a school's discretion, to test in the child's native
language instead. Crawford says he's concerned "that the department would
hold up releasing a study that is scientific simply because its conclusion
is politically inconvenient."

But panel chairman Timothy Shanahan, of the University of Illinois at
Chicago, says he'd be surprised if the book-length findings weren't
snapped up by a publisher. He says he doesn't think the Bush
administration is trying to distance itself from the report, but simply
decided to let the panel publish it independently. "If they tried to eat
the copyright, that'd be different," he says. "That would mean that I
can't show you the report. The fact is, it's going to be available and I
intend to see that this thing gets published in a highly visible way."

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