English-Language Learners Letter to the Editor

Studies Dispel Fears Over Bilingual Education

May 11, 2010 2 min read

To the Editor:

Your article “Bilingual Education, Immersion Found to Work Equally Well” (April 21, 2010) describes two recent studies using different methodologies that came to the same conclusion: When tested after a few years in school, children in bilingual programs learn about as much English as do children in English-only programs. I would like to add several points to the information provided in your article.

First, these two studies are only the most recent showing that bilingual education works. Dozens of studies have been done over the last few decades comparing bilingual and all-English approaches. In most of them, children in bilingual education did better on tests of English reading than comparison students did.

Second, both of the recent studies show that the children in the bilingual programs made the same progress in English literacy as did comparison students, despite having less exposure to English. This suggests that the time spent in Spanish instruction made a real contribution to English-language development.

The results of these studies have serious policy implications. A little over 10 years ago, citizens in three states voted to dismantle bilingual education, largely because of fears that it was delaying the acquisition of English. The results of these and previous studies show that this fear was unfounded.

Stephen Krashen

Professor Emeritus

Rossier School of Education

University of Southern California

Los Angeles, Calif.

To the Editor:

The two new studies demonstrating that bilingual education and immersion can work equally well for English-language learners should help further dispel misconceptions about the value of bilingual education for ells. But a concluding statement in your article by University of Kentucky economist Christopher Jepsen, to the effect that he did not think “we should be that worried” about whether students receive bilingual education or English immersion, is surprisingly shortsighted.

Research findings like these should lead to a discontinuation of immersion programs for ells. Why? The answer is simple if we remove, for just a moment, the monolingual blinkers that appear to be standard issue among many educators and policymakers: An English-language learner who receives bilingual education is academically proficient in two languages, not just one.

The economic, academic, cognitive, emotional, social, and cultural benefits of multilingualism are very clear and incontestable. They have been demonstrated by numerous studies in this country and in other parts of the world. There is a cure for monolingualism.

Leo van Lier

Professor of Educational Linguistics

Monterey Institute of International Studies

Monterey, Calif.

A version of this article appeared in the May 12, 2010 edition of Education Week as Studies Dispel Fears Over Bilingual Education


Jobs The EdWeek Top School Jobs Virtual Career Fair
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
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 to Power Your Curriculum With Digital Books
Register for this can’t miss session looking at best practices for utilizing digital books to support their curriculum.
Content provided by OverDrive
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.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Embracing Student Engagement: The Pathway to Post-Pandemic Learning
As schools emerge from remote learning, educators are understandably worried about content and skills that students would otherwise have learned under normal circumstances. This raises the very real possibility that children will face endless hours
Content provided by Newsela

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

English-Language Learners Explainer Who's Teaching the Children Crossing the U.S. Border? Answers to 6 Questions
A growing number of unaccompanied minors are crossing into the U.S. via the southwestern border. What's happening with their education?
9 min read
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria along with other officials are among the group of elected officials who were given a tour of the temporary youth shelter at the San Diego Convention Center on March 27, 2021. The girls will be separated in sleeping areas that will host up to 50-girls per pod. The temporary shelter will max out about 1450 girls.
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and other elected officials tour the temporary youth shelter at the San Diego Convention Center earlier this year. The shelter was set up to house 1,450 girls crossing into the United States from South and Central America.
Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP
English-Language Learners Opinion Assessment Strategies for English-Language Learners
Four educators share practical assessment strategies to support English-language learners.
12 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
English-Language Learners Spotlight Spotlight on Bilingualism and Remote Learning - Second Edition
In this Second Edition Spotlight, evaluate how schools will measure learning loss for English-learners and more.
English-Language Learners Opinion Thirteen Instructional Strategies for Supporting ELL Newcomers
Five educators share effective instructional strategies to use with English-language-learner newcomers, including using images and games.
17 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."