To the Editor:
The irony created by two articles in your March 29, 2006, issue is striking. In “Students Taking Spanish, French; Leaders Pushing Chinese, Arabic,” you report on the misalignment between the languages that schools are teaching and those that the U.S. government would like its future workforce to learn.
Yet, in that week’s In Perspective piece, “Upward Journey,” an account of why students in the Hidalgo, Texas, school district are performing at high levels, you note that district leaders use dual-language instruction in Spanish and English to build skills “crucial to students’ success in an increasingly global economy.” This approach is credited for removing barriers between immigrant parents and Hidalgo schools, thus encouraging parent involvement, which is cited as a linchpin in the district’s strategy for improvement.
By all accounts, the growth of Latino immigration into the United States is not slowing down. And as the Hidalgo story makes clear, to support the success of immigrant students, educators are well served by the ability to communicate in both English and Spanish.
While I understand that the recent focus on Chinese is born of political and economic concerns, my research work reminds me daily that the crisis in Latino student achievement calls for more Spanish-English bilingualism in the education community. Learning Spanish in school is entirely relevant to our country’s present and future challenges. If anything, we need to ramp up the current programs so that more students graduate from high school with top-notch Spanish-language proficiency.
Amy Aparicio Clark
A version of this article appeared in the April 12, 2006 edition of Education Week as Irony in Bilingual Trends Betrays Policy Confusion