December 22, 2014 · 30 Kislev

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Legislative Summary
The Bilingual Education Act was first enacted in 1968; and recent English-Only initiatives promise to change things.

English as a second language (ESL), a methodology developed in the 1930s to meet the needs of foreign diplomats and university students, is prescribed for language-minority children. Bilingual education was reborn in the 1960s. Research on bilingual education was in its infancy in 1968, when the Bilingual Education Act was first enacted. No one could say with certainty whether the pedagogy would be effective. Congress knew only that limited-English-Proficient (LEP) children faced "serious learning difficulties" in English-only classrooms and that this created a unique and perplexing education system. The 1968 Bilingual Education Act was conceived as an experiment, offering financial assistance to foster ?new and imaginative elementary and secondary school programs to meet these special education needs. Educators would develop instructional approaches, researchers would evaluate their effectiveness, and policy-makers would respond accordingly.

Congress chartered a new policy for the Bilingual Education Act when it voted, in 1994, to reauthorize the law for a fifth time. The change came in response to developments in educational research over the past three decades: insights about how children acquire languages and how they excel in other subjects. Drawing on this body of knowledge, the new law incorporates two important principles:

  • Given access to a challenging curriculum, language-minority and Limited-English-Proficient students can achieve to the same high standards as other students.
  • Proficient bilingualism is a desirable goal, which can bring cognitive, academic, cultural, and economic benefits to the nation.


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