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Many Bilingual Pupils Unaided, Study Finds

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More than half of the language-minority children whose reading abilities are substantially below the national average are not receiving bilingual or English-as-a-second-language instruction, according to a study by the Educational Testing Service.

The study, based on test results from the 1983-84 National Assessment of Educational Progress and released late last month, found that children from homes in which most people do not speak English scored significantly below their peers in reading in grades 4, 8, and 11, with the gap widening in the older age groups.

For example, 11th-grade language-minority students performed at about the level of their 8th-grade non-language-minority counterparts.

Yet among Hispanic language-minority children, only 16 percent of 4th graders and 9 percent of 8th graders were receiving some sort of bilingual or esl services.

Among Asian and Native-American language-minority children, only 10 percent of 4th graders and 4 percent of 8th graders were receiving some sort of bilingual or esl services, according to reports by the principals of the children's schools.

Among Hispanic language-minority children, 58 percent of 4th graders, 78 percent of 8th graders, and 83 percent of 11th graders did not receive bilingual or esl services under the federal bilingual-education program, the naep study found.

"While naep data do not tell us how many of these children need bilingual or esl instruction, the large numbers who don't get either make us wonder whether enough of these children are getting the special help they need to succeed in school," said Joan C. Baratz, principal investigator for the study and director of ets's division of education-policy research and services.

The study did not examine the efficacy of such services.

Many Excluded

The study represents the first time that naep--the only regularly conducted national survey of student achievement in grades K-12--has examined the effects of home and school environment on the test performance of language-minority students. Since 1982, naep has been administered by the ets with funds from the U.S. Education Department.

The 1983-84 assessment tested some 110,000 students, approximately 10 percent of whom came from homes in which most people spoke a language other than English.

According to Ms. Baratz, the study probably underestimated the problems of language-minority students because of the large number of such children who do not understand English well enough to take the exam or who have already dropped out of school.

U.S. Census data show that language-minority children constitute the fastest growing segment of the American school population. In41980, 4.5 million school-aged children, or nearly 10 percent, came from homes in which a language other than English was spoken.

Previous research has found that such students earn lower achievement-test scores than their peers, are more likely to repeat grades, and drop out of school at higher rates.

Lower Expectations

The naep study, for example, found that even young children from non-English-speaking homes had lower expectations for graduating from high school than their English-speaking classmates, said Archie E. Lapointe, executive director of naep.'

naep data found that 10 percent of Hispanic language-minority 4th graders and 6 percent of non-Hispanic language-minority 4th graders did not expect to graduate from high school, compared to only 3 percent of their white, English-speaking peers.

Among 8th graders, 11 percent of language-minority students did not expect to graduate, compared with fewer than 3 percent of non-language-minority students.

Students who said they did not expect to graduate from high school performed significantly less well than their peers on the reading test, said Ms. Baratz.

'Chicken-and-Egg Phenomenon'

"It's a chicken-and-egg phenomenon," she said. "You could say that since they're doing poorly in school, they don't expect to graduate, or that they have low aspirations so they don't do well in school. Whatever the case, it's one of these alarms going off that we're not paying much attention to. A school system should be able to do something to increase the motivation and feelings of success of such students."

The study also reported that:

Language-minority children disproportionately attend schools8whose administrators perceive "moderate-to-severe" problems with absenteeism, parental interest, discipline, vandalism, and low standards for students.

More than 50 percent of black and Hispanic youngsters attend predominantly minority schools. Such racial and ethnic isolation is most severe among Hispanic language-minority students, two-thirds to three-quarters of whom attend such schools.

Language-minority children are more likely to be older than the typical student in grades 4, 8, and 11. In 8th grade, 12 percent of Hispanic language-minority children and 5 percent of other language-minority children are older than their peers, compared with only 3 percent of white, English-speaking students.

In high school, language-minority students are less likely to have taken advanced mathematics, science, and computer courses than their English-speaking peers and are more likely to have been enrolled in vocational courses.

The parents of language-minority students at all age levels are less likely to have completed high school or to have had formal education experiences beyond the secondary level. Hispanic language-minority children were twice as likely as non-Hispanic language-minority children to have parents who had not completed high school.

The 1985-86 assessment will include even more information on language-minority children, said Ms. Baratz.

The study will include a sample of some 15,000 students from five ethnic backgrounds: Asian, Cuban, Mexican-American, Native American, and Puerto Rican. It will also include a socio-linguistic scale that identifies the conditions under which students from non-English-speaking homes use English or another language.

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