Research and policy: Factors influencing the development of bilingual education in the Valle Encantado School District
AuthorCombs, Mary Carol.
Committee ChairRuiz, Richard
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractFederal bilingual education policy generally has been characterized by inattention to research findings in second language acquisition theory. Studies have shown that learning English takes from five to nine years, and that providing students with substantial amounts of primary language instruction neither interferes with nor delays their acquisition of English. Nevertheless, the federal Bilingual Education Act has funded an increasing number of programs which do not use the student's primary language. This trend has been influenced by arguments concerning the notion of "local flexibility," or the idea that school districts are best suited to selecting the kinds of programs serving their language minority limited English proficient students. The present study sought to determine whether a similar trend was evident in a local school district in the American Southwest on the border with Mexico. After a pilot study concluded that research in bilingual education played no role in the development of the district's educational policies toward language minority students, this study was conducted to explore other influences which, in the absence of research findings, contributed to the district's current policy. The study also explored how the notion of "local flexibility" was played out in a local setting. Policy influences included Title VII funding fluctuations (and district inability or unwillingness to continue programs previously supported by the federal legislation); community apprehension (native language instruction was unnecessary and stigmatizing); local politics (frequently related to personal conflicts arising between individuals or groups); teacher recruitment and retention (still serious obstacles to adequately staffing bilingual and ESL programs). However, the most important influence on district policy was a district-wide compliance review of alternative language programs by the federal Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The OCR investigative team's reaction to the linguistic character of the community--which district officials and others interpreted as an endorsement of ESL over native language approaches--resulted in the establishment of a K-12 ESL program. The new program has direct consequences for the district's declaration that every student will graduate "bilingual, bicultural, and biliterate." Under the current ESL policy, this goal would appear to have little chance of success.
Degree ProgramLanguage, Reading & Culture