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Bilingual Education Column

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Although the bilingual teachers often used Spanish in instructing bilingual classes, they placed more emphasis on English competency than on the achievement of literacy in both languages, says the study released last month by the Mauricio Gaston Institute for Latino Community Development and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts.

Throughout the four public elementary schools studied, Hispanic children were hindered by low expectations and cultural insensitivity on the part of most teachers and by the poor condition of buildings, the report says.

The study was based on 100 hours of school observations and visits and on interviews with more than 200 educators, children, and parents.

The researchers found that school administrators seldom had a strong theoretical understanding of children's needs relating to bicultural development; instead, the administrators cited the celebration of holidays when asked how they addressed Hispanics' cultural needs.

Teachers tended to attribute the high dropout rates and low achievement scores of Hispanics to difficulties in their home environments, rather than to a lack of educational resources. They made such observations, the report says, despite a lack of linguistically, culturally, and pedagogically appropriate materials for Spanish-speakers.

While educators often see America's growing population of bilingual children as either a source of opportunity or a challenge, Teresa Iglesias-Solomon sees it as a largely untapped market for educational products.

This winter, Ms. IglesiasSolomon distributed the first copy of Ninos, an unusual direct mail catalogue of toys, books, and instructional materials for children who speak or wish to learn Spanish.

The catalogue, aimed at preschool and elementary-school children, contains materials in Spanish or in both Spanish and English from the United States, Spain, and Latin America, with most of the goods coming from Mexico. "Turista Americano," a Monopoly-style Spanish language board game, for example, lets children try to buy up most of the hemisphere.

Ms. Iglesias-Solomon, a Mexican-American living in Michigan, said she conceived of the catalogue after noticing how difficult it was to buy bilingual materials for her own children.

A free copy can be obtained by calling 1 (800) 634-3304, or by writing to Ninos, 5959 Triumph St., Commerce, Calif. 900401688.--P.S.

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