E.D. Finds Bilingual Resources Low But Recommends Cuts of 25 Percent
Washington--Only one-third of the nation's 2.4 million children whose proficiency in English is limited participate in special programs to improve their language skills, according to the Education Department's annual report to the Congress on bilingual education.
The report also identified a shortage of more than 67,000 teachers with bilingual-education qualifications. Colleges with training programs for bilingual teachers are producing only 2,000 qualified teachers a year, the report said, echoing information produced for the department earlier this year by a California research organization. (See Education Week, June 9, 1982.)
"Although local school districts and states are making an effort, schools in general are not meeting the needs of [language-minority] children," concludes the report, "The Condition of Bilingual Education in the Nation, 1982."
Asserting that "the national need for providing services to limited-English-proficient persons is great," the report nevertheless includes the Reagan Administration's recommendations that federal support for bilingual education be reduced by 25 percent "in keeping with the President's goal of reducing government spending overall."
Federal funds support 29 percent of special language programs. Seven percent of schools' programs that include instruction in students' native languages are supported by Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, while 22 percent of English-as-a-second-language programs are supported by Chapter 1, the federal compensatory-education program.
State and local funds provide the primary support for bilingual programs, 36 percent and 42 percent respectively. (Percentages do not add up to 100 because funding sources overlap, the report says.)
The Congressionally mandated document, which also draws on research findings of other federally supported studies, provides information on the ethnic backgrounds of children needing special language instruction, the types of programs serving bilingual students, and the expected increases in the number of language-minority students.
The report appears to clear up confusion over two different estimates of the number of language-minority children in the U.S.
Although federally supported studies had identified nearly 3 million such children, a study conducted by department employees--using different criteria--asserted that the number of children actually requiring special language instruction was less than half that number.
The department's estimate excluded children whose English-language skills were poor, but whose native-language ability was also poor. Paul R. Hall, a department spokesman for bilingual programs, said the department's count is being used to prepare proposed amendments to Title VII that would focus federal programs on children who are both limited-English-proficient and whose usual language is not English.
The amendment is considered necessary, Mr. Hall said, in order to channel dwindling federal funds to programs serving children who most needed bilingual education.
Among the findings collected in the report are:
When students between the ages of 14 and 18 are included, the "potential target group" of students needing special language instruction rises to 3.6 million. Although no information is available on services provided to older students, studies estimate that "proportionately fewer" of them are receiving special language instruction.
The number of language-minority children is expected to increase by nearly 40 percent by the year 2000, and the number of children from Spanish-speaking families is projected to increase by 50 percent. By contrast, the projected increase in the total number of school-age children is 16 percent.
The language most frequently spoken by language-minority children is Spanish. The next most common languages are: Italian, French, German, Filipino languages, Chinese, and Vietnamese.
More than half of the students identified as limited-English-proficient usually can speak English.
Two-thirds of the language-minority children are concentrated in three states--California, New York, and Texas.
Thirty-six states have enacted laws mandating some form of bilingual education, and 22 states provide funds for such programs.
Only 6 percent of limited-English-proficient children receive comprehensive language services that include: an assessment of their proficiency in native and English languages; bilingual instruction in all subjects; and 10 hours each week of language instruction, divided between the native language and English.
"Many schools are not assessing the special needs of language-minority children," the report says. Schools assess the English proficiency of fewer than one-third of such children, and they assess the native-language proficiency of 23 percent of such children.
Between 67,500 and 72,500 teachers with bilingual qualifications are needed to instruct lan-guage-minority children. "There is a large pool of teachers with language skills who need academic training in using languages other than English in teaching," the report says.
Among public-school teachers, most of those trained to teach English-as-a-second-language classes have also received training in bilingual education.
Bilingual vocational-training programs, supported by state and federal funds, "have been effective across a rather wide spectrum of geographic areas, trainee groups, and occupational skill areas" in alleviating unemployment among limited-English-proficient adults, the report says.
Copies of the report will be available from the National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education early next year; the cost and ordering procedures have not yet been determined. Ordering information can be obtained by calling (800) 336-4560.
Vol. 02, Issue 14