Group Claims E.D. Withheld 2 Studies Critical of Bilingual-Education Programs
Washington--A new research group aimed at reforming bilingual education has released two studies it alleges were withheld by the Education Department because they are critical of bilingual programs.
Keith Baker, a former senior researcher at the department who resigned last year to form the group, Research on English Acquisition and Development (read), charged at a news conference marking the reports' release last month that the department shelved the studies because they show the failure of federal policies favoring bilingual education.
But Alan L. Ginsburg, director of the department's planning and evaluation service, disputed both that charge and the conclusions Mr. Baker drew from the studies.
Mr. Ginsburg said one of the studies, a 1988 poll of several thousand Asian and Hispanic parents, actually was released in May. He produced a letter from a Congressional panel acknowledging its receipt.
A read news release says the poll, conducted by the Educational Testing Service, shows "that parents of language-minority students do not want bilingual-education programs for their children."
Mr. Ginsburg, however, said Mr. Baker's description of the poll distorted the meaning of its results.
Mr. Ginsburg said the poll shows that while the parents of language-minority students view the acquisition of English as the most important issue in their children's4education, they also support bilingual education in general.
Read says the second study, an analysis of previous research coauthored by Mr. Baker while he was employed at the department, shows that "bilingual education is not the best way to teach language-minority students."
But Mr. Ginsburg countered that Mr. Baker had selectively interpreted the research to support his views.
Mr. Ginsburg said the study was not approved for official release because Mr. Baker had worked on it without authorization.
"This is a study which Keith Baker did without our knowledge on company time," Mr. Ginsburg maintained. "You should not have an employee arbitrarily use taxpayers' money to present his own views."
Mr. Baker, however, charged that the department "has been systematically covering up mountains of research showing the failure of its own policy."
That seems to contradict biligual-education advocates' contention that the Reagan Administration sought to discredit the approach.
Mr. Baker, who advocates claimed had systematically tried to downplay research proving the successes of bilingual education while at the department, co-authored an ed report in the early 1980's similar to the one he now says was suppressed.
That survey, which looked at earlier studies, concluded that research results were inconclusive.
Mr. Baker acknowledged last week that former Secretary of Education William J. Bennett had been critical of bilingual education after taking office in 1985. But a few years later, Mr. Baker said, "the word came down from on high to cool things on bilingual education."
He said the apparent shift came at about the time the Congress agreed to increase federal funding of "alternative" programs that do not use children's native languages, a legislative change enacted in 1988.
The new studies, he said, "are the first among many [read] will provide that demonstrate the failure of bilingual education to protect the civil rights of language-minority children."
He said his organization is partially funded by U.S. English, a group seeking to have English declared the nation's official language, and by anonymous donors.
It includes on its board of directors Rosalie Pedalino Porter, author of Forked Tongue: The Politics of Bilingual Education.