Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Mon Feb 13 15:48:27 UTC 2006

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 13 Feb 2006 08:43:57 -0700
From: Teresa McCarty <Teresa.McCarty at>


TEMPE, Ariz. (Thursday, February 9, 2006) - Native American and Hawaiian
children who learn their heritage language typically learn English no slower
than their peers enrolled in English-only programs and generally outperform
those same peers on standardized tests, according to a new study released by
the Language Policy Research Unit at the Education Policy Studies Laboratory
at Arizona State University.

Heritage languages are endangered.  Of 210 Native languages still spoken in
the U.S. and Canada, only 34 (16 percent) are still being acquired as a
first language by children.  Proficiency in these languages is a crucial
element of child-adult interaction in Native communities.  This study,
"Language Planning Challenges and Prospects in Native American Communities
and Schools," examines planning and policy efforts that successfully
revitalized endangered heritage languages of four Indigenous groups within
the U.S. (Pueblo, Blackfeet, Navajo, and Native Hawaiian).

The study's authors, Mary Eunice Romero Little and Teresa L. McCarty of
Arizona State University, conclude that despite the positive outcomes within
these tribes, the revitalization initiatives are being tested by the federal
No Child Left Behind Act and state policies.  These policies restrict
curriculum options and pressure schools, whether labeled as
"underperforming" or "performing", to abandon proven Native language
approaches in the quest to raise test scores.

The key findings from this study are:

* Heritage-language immersion is a viable alternative to English-only
instruction for Native students who are English-dominant but identified as
limited English proficient.

* Time spent learning a heritage/community language is not time lost in
developing English, while the absence of sustained heritage-language
instruction contributes significantly to heritage-language loss.

* It takes approximately five to seven years to acquire age-appropriate
proficiency in a heritage (second) language when consistent and
comprehensive opportunities in the heritage (second) language are provided.

* Heritage-language immersion contributes to positive child-adult
interaction and helps restore and strengthen Native languages, familial
relationships, and cultural traditions within the community.

* Literacy skills first developed in a heritage language can be effectively
transferred to English, even for students with limited proficiency in the
heritage language upon entering school.

* Additive or enrichment programs using heritage-language immersion
represent the most promising approach to heritage- and second-language

* The language planning and policy efforts of the four tribes researched in
this study are fundamental to tribal sovereignty and local education choice.

Find this document on the web at:

Mary Eunice Romero Little
Assistant Professor
Arizona State University
(480) 965-3133
m.eunice at

Alex Molnar, Professor and Director
Education Policy Studies Laboratory
(480) 965-1886
epsl at


The Language Policy Research Unit (LPRU), co-directed by Dr. Terrence G.
Wiley and Dr. Wayne E. Wright, promotes research and policy analysis on the
challenges and opportunities posed by global multiculturalism. LPRU
activities are intended to inform public discussion and policymaking in
state, national, and international contexts.

Visit the LPRU website at

The Education Policy Studies Laboratory (EPSL) at Arizona State University
offers high quality analyses of national education policy issues and
provides an analytical resource for educators, journalists, and citizens. It
includes the Arizona Education Policy Initiative (AEPI), the Commercialism
in Education Research Unit (CERU), the Education Policy Research Unit
(EPRU), and the Language Policy Research Unit (LPRU). The EPSL is directed
by Professor Alex Molnar.

Visit the EPSL website at

CONTACT:  Mary Eunice Romero Little (480) 965-3133 (email) m.eunice at
or Alex Molnar (480) 965-1886 (email) epsl at

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