School & District Management

Two Languages, One Goal

By Mary Ann Zehr — February 26, 2007 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

On a December morning at Lincoln Avenue School in Orange, New Jersey, a gritty suburb of Newark, Latino 1st graders who don’t know much English read a story about a rat in English, and then follow it with a story about a rat in Spanish.

During the 120-minute literacy block, the students’ teacher, Maria Albuquerque-Malaman, and ESL instructor Enid Shapiro-Unger use the theme of animals and their homes to teach in both English and Spanish.

Such scenes are not unusual in the state, which requires bilingual education in districts with at least 20 students who speak the same native language.

Maria Albuquerque-Malaman leads a counting lesson in Spanish.

“The transition from the native language to the second language goes more smoothly,” Albuquerque-Malaman says.

New Jersey’s embrace of bilingual education, in which students are taught some subjects in their native tongue while learning English, runs counter to prevailing national trends: Many school districts in Arizona, California, and Massachusetts abandoned the approach after voters approved state ballot measures to curtail it.

But Garden State officials, who have also mandated instruction in Spanish for the federal Reading First program and other early reading initiatives, say research is on their side.

Fred Carrigg, the special assistant for literacy to New Jersey’s education commissioner, cites two reviews of research to back the state’s requirements: Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children, published by the National Research Council in 1998, and Developing Literacy in Second-Language Learners: Report of the National Literacy Panel on Language-Minority Children and Youth, published last year.

The federal Department of Education paid $1.8 million for the National Literacy Panel’s study—which concludes there is a “small to moderate” advantage for bilingual education over English-only methods—but then declined to publish it. Department officials said the work didn’t stand up to the peer-review process, though critics who praised the research have suggested the decision was politically motivated.

When asked why he puts stock in the findings, Carrigg says the federal government’s criticism of the study concerned procedures and process, not “recommendations or results.” He adds: “We note that fine line.”

But officials elsewhere have disregarded the literacy panel’s finding. Margaret Garcia Dugan, who oversees programs for English-language learners for the Arizona Department of Education and opposes bilingual education, says the federal department’s decision not to publish the study raised “a red flag” for her, pointing to potential questions about its validity.

Not even all New Jersey teachers agree with their state’s administrators. “I feel that bilingual methods hold the students back,” wrote Charmaine Della Bella, the ESL teacher for the K-8 Norwood Public School, in an e-mail. She said ESL techniques have worked for the 19 English learners in her school, all of whom are Korean.

Carrigg insists that the state’s policies are working: Half of New Jersey’s 3rd grade English learners are scoring at or above the “proficient” level on the state’s language arts test, which must be taken in English.

Russell Rumberger, the director of the Linguistic Minority Research Institute at the University of California at Santa Barbara, applauds New Jersey officials for taking what he views as an evidence-based approach. “The research is increasingly supporting the idea that bilingual education is not only not bad, but is beneficial,” he says.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the March 01, 2007 edition of Teacher as Two Languages, One Goal

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management From Our Research Center Educators' Support for COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates Is Rising Dramatically
Nearly 60 percent of educators say students who are old enough to receive COVID vaccines should be required to get them to attend school.

4 min read
Mariah Vaughn, a 15-year-old Highland Park student, prepares to receive a COVID-19 vaccine during the vaccine clinic at Topeka High School on Monday, Aug. 9, 2021.
Mariah Vaughn, 15, a student at Highland Park High School in Topeka, Kan., prepares to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at her school in August.
Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP
School & District Management 10 Ways to Tackle Education's Urgent Challenges
As the school year gets underway, we ask hard questions about education’s biggest challenges and offer some solutions.
2 min read
Conceptual Image of schools preparing for the pandemic
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
School & District Management Reported Essay Principals Need Social-Emotional Support, Too
By overlooking the well-being of their school leaders, districts could limit how much their schools can flourish.
7 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
School & District Management From Our Research Center Educator Stress, Anti-Racism, and Pandemic Response: How You're Feeling
A new nationally representative survey offers key takeaways from teachers, principals, and district leaders.
EdWeek Research Center
1 min read
2021 BI COVER no text DATA crop
Pep Montserrat for Education Week