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Report Finds Gap in State Services for L.E.P. Students

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Current state programs for language-minority children leave many of them unserved or poorly served by the types of special services they need to succeed in school, according to a report by the Council of Chief State School Officers.

In particular, it says, many limited-English-proficient children are not receiving the benefits of compensatory instruction, special education, vocational education, and other categorical programs for which they may be eligible in addition to bilingual education.

Citing answers to ccsso questionnaires completed by state education agencies since 1987, the report says that 32 of the 48 states responding reported that significant percentages of their l.e.p. children were not receiving language-related educational services to help them succeed in classrooms where instruction is in English.

On average, the study found, 29 percent of the l.e.p. children in those 32 states were unserved by bilingual or English-as-a-second-lan4guage programs. In four of those states, more than 60 percent of l.e.p. students were reported as not receiving language-related services.

The findings, released to the chiefs last month, are similar to those of a new federal study of l.e.p. services in 10 states. That five-year study concluded that the types of instructional services provided to l.e.p. children depend primarily on local conditions and available district resources, not on the pupils' academic needs. (See Education Week, May 2, 1990.)

The c.c.s.s.o. report, "School Success for Limited English Proficient Students: The Challenge and State Response," notes that, while some state education agencies have developed administrative or pedagogical initiatives designed to improve the achievement of l.e.p. students, most are relatively new and limited.

Moreover, it says, "there is a gap between what researchers have learned about the dynamics of second-language acquisition, and the practices in effect in our schools."

For example, it notes, most l.e.p. children in bilingual or English-as-a-second-language programs are "mainstreamed" into English-only classes, without additional support services, after two or three years. This practice, it says, conflicts with research suggesting that it takes from five to seven years to become proficient in a second language.

The report urges state agencies to assess current and projected needs of l.e.p. students and to make a greater effort to meet them through research, curriculum development, assessment, training, teacher certification, increased funding, and other means.

It also suggests that states more thoroughly monitor the educational status of l.e.p. students and program effectiveness, and that they develop ways to collaborate with local school systems and to exchange information with other states.

Copies of the report are available from the ccsso's Resource Center on Educational Equity, 379 Hall of the States, 400 North Capitol St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001-1511; (202) 393-8159.--ps

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