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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Bilingual Education

The controversy over bilingual education has been in the background lately, but this news may bring it back to the front burner:

The Education Department in 2002 appointed the National Literacy Panel, a non-partisan research group, to conduct a two-year study of existing research on bilingual education. More than three years later, the panel's report is still pending.

The panel's chairman, Timothy Shanahan of the University of Illinois-Chicago, last week said the Education Department won't publish its findings, which include studies suggesting that non-English-speaking students learn better when taught in both English and their native language. This approach is used by most schools but is criticized by some conservatives...

Over the past few years, a small group of conservative activists nationwide, led by software entrepreneur Ron Unz, has led a series of successful ballot measures to dismantle bilingual programs in California, Arizona and Massachusetts, in favor of English-only instruction...

Unz cites "quite extraordinary" gains in reading and language scores from 1998 to 2002 for immigrant children in California in English-only classes...

Bilingual advocates say most research in the field supports bilingual education, but Unz says most of the research "is complete garbage."

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