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Bilingual & Immigrant Education

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While first- and second-generation immigrant children are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population under the age of 15, their needs are often lost in the debate over services for immigrants, concludes a report from a National Academy of Sciences panel.

The report, published in the Summer/Fall issue of the Packard Foundation journal The Future of Children, emphasizes that researchers must study immigrant children in the context of their families. Such children often serve as the link between their parents and the larger English-speaking community. And they face pressure to assimilate, while their parents worry that they are becoming overly Americanized, the report says.

But many questions--such as why some immigrant children succeed in school and others fail--need more study, it concludes.

A second panel, also convened by the NAS Board on Children and Families of the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine, plans to issue a report next year identifying gaps in research on educating limited-English-proficient children.

The panel is trying to "look at effective instruction and get away from the fixation on using a student's native language or English" to teach such students, said Diane August, the panel's staff director and a senior program officer at the NAS.

Free copies of The Future of Children are available by faxing requests to (415) 948-6498 or by writing the Packard Foundation, Circulation Department, 300 Second St., Suite 102, Los Altos, Calif. 94022.

In light of the various proposals currently in Congress that seek to make English the country's official language, the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress has published a legal analysis of the proposals and the issues raised.

Most of the bills would make English the official language of the federal government; some bills would repeal federal bilingual-education law.

A total of 21 states have official-English laws on their books. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in October upheld an earlier appeals-court ruling that found Arizona's official-English law violated the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech. Some of the proposals in Congress could face similar legal obstacles, the report says.

Copies of the report, "Legal Analysis of Proposals To Make English the Official Language of the United States Government," are available to constituents through their Congressional representatives' offices.

--Lynn Schnaiberg

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