Two-Way Bilingual-Ed. Programs Show Promise, New Study Suggests

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

Baltimore--Two-way bilingual-education programs, in which speakers of two languages work academically in both languages, are the most promising method for teaching language-minority students, the initial findings from an ongoing study suggest.

While bilingual-education advocates have said such programs offer the best educational prospects for limited-English-proficient students, the findings presented here this month at the national meeting of the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages represent some of the first research done on students past the 3rd or 4th grade.

As other studies have indicated, the new study found that many K-4 students showed "reasonable'' gains on standardized tests in English regardless of how much native-language instruction they received, said Virginia P. Collier, the author of the study and the associate director of the center for bilingual, multicultural, and English-as-a-second-language education at George Mason University in Virginia.

But by the 12th grade, Ms. Collier said, students in the two-way bilingual programs showed the greatest educational gains, while those in traditional E.S.L. pullout programs--where students are offered no instruction in their native language--fared the worst.

In the upper grades, students who have received little native-language instruction tend to do worse as the curriculum, largely taught in English, becomes academically and cognitively more complex, she said.

The study was based on five urban districts with L.E.P. student enrollments of between 10,000 and 25,000. Students in the study spoke more than 100 languages other than English as their native tongues.

The initial report does not distinguish between immigrant students or those born in the United States.

The U.S. Education Department in 1992 funded the study to track L.E.P. students' long-term achievement and analyze the factors that affect it.

The final report should be available by the end of the summer, Ms. Collier indicated.

More states are requiring prospective E.S.L. or bilingual teachers to take specialized standardized tests to become certified in those disciplines, a researcher says.

Stephen J. Gaies of the graduate English department at the University of Northern Iowa conducted a survey of all the states' education departments or certification agencies, finding that eight states require such tests for E.S.L. teachers and three require them for bilingual teachers. Some 40 states offer endorsement or certification in E.S.L.

The last time such comprehensive material was compiled, in 1987, only California required prospective E.S.L. or bilingual teachers to be tested for certification.

Only five states test for language proficiency, Mr. Gaies said.

U.S. schools should conduct more teacher "action'' research, according to researchers from the applied-linguistics center at the University of South Australia.

That kind of research is needed to counteract what one of the researchers, Peter Mickan, called the "complete lack of rich, descriptive reports on second-language learning.''

From 1988 to 1991, the center trained 52 elementary and secondary language teachers in southern Australia on how to devise research topics, collect data, and write conclusions.

By doing research and using their own classrooms as subjects, the teachers reported becoming more aware of areas in which they needed to improve.

"Quantitative research can't direct us in what we do in the classroom on a daily basis,'' Mr. Mickan said, while acknowledging that teachers face many obstacles in doing research.

The Australian education department plans soon to establish a center on action research, he said.

Web Only

Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories