[lg policy] Bilingual or not: how language policy impacts classroom achievement

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Thu Mar 10 15:51:16 UTC 2011

Bilingual or not: how language policy impacts classroom achievement

What is the best way to teach the increasing number of students for
whom English is not
their native language?

This question has become a politicized issue and the subject of heated
debate in recent
years. It’s also at the heart of the immersion and bilingual education
research being conducted
by Dr. Francesca Lopez, assistant professor of educational policy and
“Math and science achievement among new immigrants, particularly those
struggling to
learn the dominant language, is an issue of considerable importance in
the U.S.,” Lopez says.
Lopez’s findings show that in states with the highest concentration of
Hispanic students,
a stronger bilingual education emphasis meant significantly better
fourth-grade reading
achievement scores among Hispanic English language learners and
Hispanic non-ELLs. Now
she’s expanding her study to look at math and science results, as well.
“Anti-language policies can be seen as anti-culture messages,” Lopez
says. “And when
you target a population and say, ‘You can’t use your language and
heritage in school,’ they
did worse.”

However, there is no uniform approach for teaching ELL students. Some
states, such as
Arizona, California and Massachusetts, don’t allow any languages other
than English to be
used in the classroom. Other states, like New Mexico, Texas and
Wisconsin, require bilingual
education, which incorporates instruction in students’ native language
as students acquire
English. Still others allow both English immersion and bilingual
education, lacking any mandate.
As a result, Lopez concludes that educational policies that vary
widely between states
have very different — and lasting — effects on this growing student population.
“Ultimately, I want to make the public aware that forcing assimilation
by attempting to
eliminate students’ cultural heritage will only widen disparities,”
she says. — TC

-- http://www.marquette.edu/research/documents/discover-2011-Bilingual.pdf
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