Letters to the Editor
To the Editor:
I am writing in reference to your article "Bilingual Education Works, Study Finds,'' (March 25, 1987). To my chagrin and consternation, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development has released a draft copy of a curriculum pamphlet on the education of language-minority students in the United States as conclusive research findings of a panel of experts on the effectiveness of transitional bilingual education.
In October 1986, I was asked to join a seven-member panel to co-author the pamphlet. Assignments were made for identified sections of the document. Your article cites excerpts from a draft chapter written by one member of the panel; it certainly does not represent the consensus of all the members.
As early as November 1986, I shared with Diane Berreth, the A.S.C.D.'s director of field services, my concern that the report contained virtually no discussion of other alternative methodologies. I requested the withdrawal of my name from the panel on three separate occasions. Ms. Berreth repeatedly reminded me of the A.S.C.D.'s determination to prepare a factual and balanced analysis. I believed her.
A memorandum dated March 17 and postmarked March 18 was sent to panel members with the final draft. It set March 18 as the deadline for comments from panel members. I received the document late March 19. After a hasty review, I determined that my concerns were still unmet. The document ignored the validity of other successful methodologies and concentrated exclusively on transitional bilingual education. I sought to reach Ms. Berreth. I found that all the A.S.C.D. staff had left the previous day, March 18, to New Orleans for an annual conference. I left a message again withdrawing my name.
I now find that Phil King, the A.S.C.D.'s public-relations official, had prepared and distributed two press releases and distributed copies of the original rough draft prior to the March 17, 1987, memo of Ms. Berreth's to panel members, along with copies of the final draft.
I would like to quote from the telegram I received March 24, 1987, from the A.S.C.D.:
"It was our intention to give policy-panel members an opportunity for comment or withdrawal prior to publication. We deeply regret that the report was released prior to panel members' final approval of the text. Furthermore, the description of the report in Education Week, March 25, 1987, as a study is misleading. The report is an analysis of issues in native-language instruction and is not intended to defend or refute any specific methodology.''
This statement is at odds with the script of the press releases prepared by A.S.C.D. staff members and with the distribution of the preliminary draft version of the pamphlet. I can assure you that all seven panel members will agree with me that the issue of superiority of one methodology over another was never discussed, neither was the evaluation and comparison of research data. Our task was to help the A.S.C.D. prepare a handy resource for curriculum supervisors who must deal with education of limited-English-proficient students on a daily basis.
I sincerely trust that Education Week will have better luck at getting to the bottom of this unfortunate episode. It is painful and difficult to entertain that staff members of an institution that I held in such high regard may be capable of misrepresenting facts or be a party to a clear breach of faith.
Esther J. Eisenhower
Bilingual Coordinator for Public Schools,
Fairfax County, Va.
Editor's Note: Edward J. Fuentes, the director of research and evaluation in the U.S. Education Department's office of bilingual education and minority language affairs, also wrote a letter echoing the points made in the letter above and indicating that he, too, asked that his name be removed from the report "after finding that the draft ... was one-sided.''
The bilingual-education report was provided to Education Week shortly before its release by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum at its national convention on March 20. A press release accompanying the report stated that it was based on a "study undertaken last fall by a distinguished panel concerned about the controversy raging over bilingual education.''
Nothing in the materials provided by the A.S.C.D. indicated that the report was preliminary, that there was any disagreement among members of the panel, or that any panelists had asked to have their names removed from it.
Ms. Berreth subsequently acknowledged that the A.S.C.D. released the report prematurely, apologized to panel members, and conceded that the wording in the press release was misleading.