NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Railroading Students Into Bilingual ED

March 27, 1997

Although the federal government has been funding and promoting bilingual education for nearly three decades, the best that a two-year National Academy of Sciences study could report was that it couldn't decide whether the program helps or hurts. But anecdotal evidence clearly suggests the latter.

Critics say that state mandates make it far too easy to shuttle children into the programs and quite difficult to extricate them.

The Center for Equal Opportunity recently studied the 10 states with the largest bilingual teaching programs and came to some startling conclusions:

  • The states conduct flawed home-language surveys -- asking whether a language other than English is ever used by anyone in a child's home -- which often ends up shunting a child into bilingual courses, even if the child speaks only English.
  • Children who score below the 40th percentile in a common, standardized English test are often automatically herded into bilingual classes -- meaning that 40 percent of all children, even English-only-speakers, must take bilingual ed.
  • Many states force parents to jump through bureaucratic hoops, critics charge, in order to get their children out of bilingual classes -- and Florida does not even offer this option.

Reformers point out that bilingual teachers have a vested interest in railroading students into their classes, often showing astonishing arrogance toward children and parents. They urge states to take a closer look at these programs and return schools to their traditional role of assimilation.

Source: Jorge Amselle (Center for Equal Opportunity), "Immigrants and the Bilingual Barrier," Investor's Business Daily, March 27, 1997.


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