The genesis of bilingual education in the United States began in the1960’s immediately after the arrival of many Cuban refugees into the United States and the introduction of the Bilingual Act of 1968 which has been cited as the first official federal recognition of the needs of students with limited English speaking ability (LESA). Since 1968 the Act has been rewritten at least four times with various added amendments in 1974, 1978, 1984, and 1988. It is crucial to highlight the societal and economic ambiances within which the legislative changes were enacted. This background is important both for the students whose lives have been affected but also for those educators who have direct and indirect contact with limited English proficient students and those students who have successfully completed a bilingual education program.
One of the most salient events relevant to the bilingual education movement was a bill proposed by Senator Ralph Yarborough of Texas in 1967. The central purpose of this bill was to provide assistance to school districts in establishing educational programs specifically for students with limited English speaking ability. It also proposed the teaching of Spanish as a native language, the teaching of English as a second language and a curriculum that afforded Spanish-speaking students an appreciation for their natal language and culture. This bill helped pave the way for other bills which later were merged into Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act or the bilingual Education Act of 1968. Even though initially Title VII was interpreted as a remedy for civil rights violations it was a catalyst for the new awareness that ethnic minorities could seek differentiated services for reasons other than racial prejudice or segregation. The social ambiance in the United States was such that a myriad of events were bursting with explosive social, economical and racial concerns.
The Brown Supreme Court Case of 1954 generated a new era in American civil rights and helped initiate later legislation that helped with the beginnings of other programs for the disadvantaged and sometimes silenced minorities. The ruling in the Brown Case did not refer directly to Hispanics but it indicated that it had impact on others in similar predicaments. Many of these other similarly situated minorities, along with Blacks, protested against lack of employment, poor representation in government, and lack of housing and educational opportunities.
The 1964 passage of the Civil Rights Act forged the concept of equality in federal law. Various sections of this legislation provided that any program receiving federal financial monies could not discriminate on the basis of race or national origin. One other important provision that impacted language minority students was that the Attorney General could initiate school desegregation suits if private individuals were unable to do so. Subsequent legislations such as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and the Title VII of 1968 did not directly require bilingual instruction or the use of the students’ native language for instruction. Much of the emphasis was on innovative programs to teach students English. School districts had to invent their own English as a Second language classes and by putting minority students in segregated classes these schools in turn seemed to be violating desegregation laws and the law of some states that had English-only laws, some of which were “violated” with the commencement of bilingual education programs. How could either side win?
Needless to say, the guidelines to the Bilingual Education Act stimulated a plenitude of civil rights suits claiming that equal opportunities were being denied to limited English ability students. The participation in the guidelines was voluntary. There was a lot of confusion about the design and intent of programs for limited English speaking students. In 1974, the amendments to the Bilingual Education Act of 1968 attempted to elucidate the real intent and design of the educational programs and their purposes.
There were two peremptory legal events that impacted the 1974 amendments: the Equal Educational Opportunity Act of 1974 and
Lau v. Nichols
of the Supreme court of the United States in 1974.
Lau v. Nichols
was initiated by a San Francisco lawyer when he was informed that the son of one of his clients was failing school because he did not speak English. This was a class action brought against the San Francisco school district:
This class suit brought by non-English speaking Chinese students against officials responsible for the operation of the San Francisco Unified School district seeks relief against the unequal educational opportunities which are alleged to violate the Fourteenth Amendment. No specific remedy is urged upon us. . . . .Petitioner asks only that the Board of Education be directed to apply its expertise to the problem and rectify the situation. The District denied relief. The Court of Appeals affirmed. . . .
To help districts comply with the
Lau v. Nichols
ruling that, “a meaningful opportunity to participate in the school programs” be implemented and guaranteed, in 1975, the Health, Education and Welfare Office for Civil Rights established the guidelines known as the Lau Remedies. The main objectives of these guidelines were to study whether school districts were in compliance with the law (and therefore in observance of the civil rights of students with limited English speaking ability) and to assist in the development of appropriate educational plans for correcting civil rights violations.
The specifications of the 1974 Amendments had delineated the definition of a bilingual education program, program goals, regional support centers and other requirements. A bilingual program was defined as one that provided instruction in English and in the native language of the students. The student was to be permitted to progress through the educational system and any program that had only English as a second language was found to be inadequate and had to be remedied. The main goal was to prepare the students to participate in the regular classroom as quickly as possible. After the Lau Remedies the programs for students with limited English speaking ability increased but a series of problems emerged as a result of the effort to implement the Lau Remedies. Many school districts consolidated their students thus creating segregated classes and even segregated schools. Some of the school districts consolidated in an effort to provide cost-effective bilingual education as mandated by the Lau Remedies guidelines. As long as the long term goal was to improve English language skills, the guidelines allowed up to 40 percent of the students in any given classroom to be English-speaking. The Lau Remedies also required the use of the native language in many cases. Many people objected because the argued that federal funds were being used for promoting language maintenance. The expansion and implementation of more bilingual programs also meant that more federal and local funds were being used at a time when school budgets were being cut because of the recession.
In 1978, the Bilingual Education Act was amended in an effort to broaden the definition of eligible students. Just like today, passions ran high in the debate on bilingual education. There exists a plenitude of confusions over both the phenomenon of bilingualism itself and the goals and methods of bilingual education. Unfortunately, until the terms of this important debate are clarified, the arena will be dominated by political rhetoric and folk notions. Even though the 1978 legislation did not end the debate over bilingual education, among other things, it amplified the definition of limited English speaking students to those with a limited English proficiency. This deficiency had to be a lack of reading, speaking, writing, and understanding that impede the students from the opportunity to learn in classes where English was the medium of instruction. What about now? We have too many LEP students that have already been through various years of bilingual education programs. These are those kids that have been entering the middle schools without a strong preparation and foundation in speaking, reading and writing of English that is crucial to be a successful academic in high school and later on in the adult life stream. Some of these students are also victims of the part of the 1978 amendments which dictated that students with limited proficiency in English were to be moved into regular classrooms as soon as possible. Some of these students were retained in classes where the native language was to be used only to the extent necessary for students to achieve the necessary proficiency level in English. Unfortunately, many of the well-intentioned teachers continue to instruct in Spanish.
The bilingual Act of 1984 permitted more funds to be used for special alternative instructional programs which did not require that the native language be used as has been previously mandated. For example, transitional programs in which structured English teaching was combined with native language component were allowed, and up to 40 percent of the enrollment in that class could be non-LEP students. The 1984 Bilingual Act also stipulated that parents become more involved in their children’s education. The schools were to inform the parents that they had a right to decline their children’s enrollment in any bilingual program, that they could request their children’s entering mainstream classes and the parents were also to be informed of the many alternative programs available for their children. Another great emphasis of this new Act was that state and local school districts had to start assuming more responsibility for the financial burdens of bilingual education.
The 1988 Bilingual Act is part of P.L. 100-297, or, the Hawkins Stafford Elementary and Secondary Improvement Amendments that reauthorized general bilingual education through September 30, 1993. In his book,
The Bilingual Education Act: 1988 Legislation
, Enrique Cubillos explicates the following highlights of this new Act: 1) 75 percent of total monies to school is to go towards transitional bilingual programs; 2) placed great emphasis on training and retraining of personnel; 3) information to parents or guardians on the nature of Title VII programs and on their right to decline enrollment for their children in bilingual education must be in simple language that they, the parents, can understand; 4) a three-year limit was placed on a student’s participation in special alternative or transitional bilingual education programs.
The provisions of the 1988 Education Act clearly delineated various guidelines for students and parents like the emphasis on the clarity of the language for parents and the limit on the number of years that students had to be enrolled in these special programs. Various students and parents have voiced their concerns on these two issues: there have been cases of students that were kept in transitional programs more than three years and some parents have said that they thought their kids had to attend bilingual education classes.
The 1988 Bilingual Education Act will be presented by the teacher, a volunteer student and Judge Jose A. Cabranes during the presentation of this unit. The teacher will have to contact Judge Cabranes and schedule an appointment with him.
By this point the students have participated in classes presented by the teacher and the volunteer judge or an assistant on the bilingual education movement. They have had opportunities to ask questions. The students are permitted to interview any of the volunteers or presenters. The teacher then follows the following stages in an attempt to generate relevant writings generated by student interaction and group activities.
Choose a topic or concept
. The topic here happens to be bilingual education, but it can be related to other content areas such as social studies, history or a culture class. The theme or topic here would be “My Experience in the Bilingual Program” or “What I learned about the Bilingual Program”.
Identify an activity
. The activity chosen should be sufficiently meaningful and stimulating to engage students’ attention and generate debate and discussion. The students and the teacher decide what strategies are to be used in generating ideas and summaries. Oral summaries, mini-stories and personal anecdotes are suggested. Students are grouped with two or three persons in each group. The teacher assigns one peer tutor to take notes on what is said in each group. Students might decide to begin generating ideas for writing their own autobiography. In one group that I conducted fourth marking period in a Hispanic culture course, one of the end products were autobiographies which revealed discontent with the academic development of students and good writing details about the students’ personal experiences as students in the New Haven Public School in general.
Plan the activity
. At this point the teacher along with the students will list all the materials, persons or props needed. Also, at this point the teacher makes up a list of vocabulary words and phrases that students can use in their writing. The teacher should be sure that each student has a role in the activities planned. By now students have a list of necessary words and phrases written on the blackboard and on bright colored paper pinned on the walls. Each student is in an assigned group and each group has a recorder-observer. Students are prewarned that they are being recorded.
Conduct the activities
. Begin the session by introducing the components or stages involved. Make all students understand what is expected of them. Have volunteer students paraphrase the instructions. Oral language has to accompany this part of the activity as much as possible. Each student paraphrases any ideas, concepts or phrases that he has read about the 1988 Bilingual Education Act. Then each student gives a mini-autobiographical sketch. As the students develop more and more skill and confidence in the oral production, the teacher’s role shifts from that of generator of language to mediator of language production for the students. Eventually, each student’s oral summary and paraphrasing presentation will have been recorded.
. Everyone in the group assists in cleaning up. This affords opportunity for continued language enrichment and responsibility building. Students return the room to normal seating arrangement, erase the blackboards, put away tape recorders, pick up papers off floor and so on.
Debrief the students on the activity
. Debriefing includes summarizing the activity to prepare for the actual writing of the first draft. During ten minutes of debriefing the teacher asks students to recount the steps of the previous activity and reemphasize the core vocabulary and ideas.
Writing of the story, autobiography or whatever the student and teachers have decided to write
. At this point the teacher elicits ideas from individual students and writes them on the board or on a flip-chart. One of the things recommended here is that the teacher writes his or her autobiography as an illustration of one of the many ways it could be done. The teacher can also have a student volunteer to give an oral presentation. The teacher writes whatever the student says without correction or the teacher can correct the sentences as they are written on the board. Writing whatever the students say on the board without changes sometimes makes students feel that they can contribute since they know anything they say will be acceptable. After the students write their first draft, the teacher has a person to person session with each student with suggestions on how the autobiography can be polished or extended.
. These can include the following. Alphabetization of a group of ten or twenty words taken from students’ writing. This list might include any misspelled word. In a story extension, the students are instructed to write a new ending or sequel to their autobiographies. They could be asked to pretend they lived the lives of the judges or other role models that they might have encountered in one or the presentations on bilingual education or the juvenile justice system. In a close exercise the teacher makes various paragraphs out of some of the compositions or from the materials on bilingual education or the juvenile justice system that the students have learned. The students fill in the blanks. Usually in a close task there is a “correct” answer but in this activity the students are allowed to use inexact but appropriate answers, provided it makes sense with the rest of the writing piece.
After students have done a variety of close activities with each others’ autobiographies, the written work is compiled together as a book with authors and so on. The Art teacher can help the students do illustrations on their papers and the school yearbook advisor will be of great assistance in getting these autobiographies finalized in the form of a book. Under the aegis of these various teachers, the students can produce a very literate expression of themselves.
During the weeks that this unit is being presented another worthwhile activity is to require that each student keeps a dialogue journal; in which he or she writes to the teacher about the topic being discussed or about topics of personal interest or concern of the writer. The teacher responds to each written entry and the exchange is confined to the teacher. The writing in these dialogue journals is student-generated and is non-threatening. The teacher responds to each entry according to the student’s language proficiency level. Here one must remember that the focus of dialogue journal interaction is on communication rather than form. The motivation that the student has to read the teacher’s responses forces him or her to automatically read at a higher level of writing and understanding.
There are two other world language approaches to the teaching of writing that can be used with the material in this unit. A diary, unlike a dialogue journal, gives the students an opportunity to write to themselves. The students decide whether the teacher will respond to each entry. In a personal diary, the student writes about anything that is of personal significance. In a content area diary, the focus is on the material or related topics being studied by the class. In creative writing situations that will come up, the teacher should model the process of creative writing for the students by telling them a story that the teacher likes to write about. The teacher sits down and writes the story, anecdote or reaction, in this case it could be the reaction to the seminar on bilingual education or on the juvenile justice system. Again, students are given a chance to tell their stories to each other, then they set aside time for writing. The teacher should give feedback immediately. As the students write, the teacher circulates and confers with them on their writing. Finally, the students’ works would be completed in published book form on computers or typewriters.