Education Letter to the Editor

Bilingual Ed. Support: Aid to New Jersey’s Success?

January 30, 2007 1 min read

To the Editor:

Kudos to New Jersey for supporting decades of sound sociolinguistic research, and for writing bilingual education into its Reading First implementation (“N.J. Bucks Tide on Reading for English-Learners,” Jan. 10, 2007). New Yorkers love to poke fun at New Jersey, but this time my hat is off to its policymakers and educators.

Bilingual programs fail when they are inadequately conceived, funded, and staffed. Sadly, the public is never informed of successful bilingual programs, and doesn’t read about the longtime beneficial effects of biliteracy, because empowerment of linguistic ethnic groups makes monolinguals uncomfortable. It is illogical and unscientific for policymakers, under the guise of “Americanization,” to hold children back educationally for six years until they catch up to native English-speakers.

Since the 1970s, when I began my career as an educator in Brooklyn, I have repeatedly seen the lights in my students’ eyes brighten (a nod to the bilingual education scholar Sonia Nieto) when concepts are taught in a language they can understand, then reinforced in English. Bilingualism and biliteracy promote diverse modes of expression, communication, and thinking—crucial skills during a time in history when membership in the global community will be an absolute necessity.

According to your recent Quality Counts issue, New Jersey’s education system gets very good results; perhaps its support of bilingual education is part of its success formula. There is a lesson to be learned here.

Alina Newman

Wantagh, N.Y.

To the Editor:

I find it hard to believe that the residents of Orange, N.J., would describe their city as a “gritty suburb of Newark.” Surely you could have described the socioeconomic status of the city more eloquently.

Beth Pettit

New York, N.Y.

A version of this article appeared in the January 31, 2007 edition of Education Week as Bilingual Ed. Support: Aid To New Jersey’s Success?