Bilingual & Immigrant Education

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Study Criticized: A Boston University professor has criticized as unscientific a widely cited study that suggests two-way bilingual education programs are among the most promising methods for teaching language-minority students.

The study, which received some funding from the U.S. Department of Education, analyzed some 700,000 student records from 1982 to 1996 in five districts with large enrollments of limited-English-proficient students. The districts were not named in the 96-page report released late last year through the National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education.

Among the study's main findings were that students enrolled in two-way bilingual programs showed the greatest educational gains over time, while those in traditional English-as-a-second-language programs--where students typically do not receive instruction in their native languages--fared the worst.

In two-way programs, students who speak English and those who speak another language are mixed in the same classroom and are taught academic subjects in both languages.

But the critique, written by Christine H. Rossell, a political science professor at Boston University, and released last month by the READ Institute--Research in English Acquisition and Development--calls the findings "highly suspect."

The study released last year did not offer enough information on the students or schools examined and its methodology was not sound, according to the Amherst, Mass.-based institute, which has criticized bilingual education.

One of the 1997 study's authors, Virginia P. Collier, an education professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., called the criticism unfounded and said the study had been well-received in the research community.

Ms. Collier said further details on the study's methodology would be available in upcoming reports.

The 1997 study, "School Effectiveness for Language Minority Students," is available through the National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education's World Wide Web site at: Copies can be obtained for $10 each by calling (202) 467-0867.

"Mystery on the Bilingual Express: A Critique of the Thomas and Collier Study" appears in the fall 1998 issue of READ Perspectives, which can be ordered for $14 an issue by calling (413) 256-0034. The critique is also available on the Center for Equal Opportunity's Web site at:

--Lynn Schnaiberg[email protected].

Vol. 18, Issue 15, Page 5

Published in Print: November 25, 1998, as Bilingual & Immigrant Education

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