... For some reason, Hispanics have been singled out as the only children in our school systems who can't deal with English-language immersion lest it ruin their psyches, dishonor their ethnic roots, and needlessly challenge them.
In Illinois, children who would learn English as a second language are first taught to read and write — or taught exclusively — in their native tongue. This continues until they can be transitioned, over many years in most cases, into English-speaking classrooms.
And when I say their native language, I mean Spanish, because other immigrant students who show up to school speaking, say Russian, Polish or Chinese are mainstreamed with only minimal English-as-a-second-language supports. There simply aren't enough of them per grade level to offer special native-language classrooms.
Those who believe it is cruel to immerse a non-English-speaking Latino student in mainstream classes rarely shed any tears for the non-Hispanic ones who are regularly made to sink or swim. And it's not often acknowledged that such students, because of that immersion, are usually extremely successful in quickly learning to speak English.
When I taught bilingual ed at a high school, I saw non-Spanish-speaking immigrant students go from zero to near-fluency in English in mere months. Yet I also taught 16-year-old students who had been born in the U.S., but trapped in “bilingual” classrooms their whole lives, who still couldn't speak English ...
Perhaps our education system thinks they're not up to it. Too frequently, educators get caught up in the “pobrecito syndrome,” as in “poor baby, of course he's going to underachieve, he's disadvantaged.”
The steady diet of bad news about segments of the Hispanic population drive a myth that all Latinos are downtrodden, at-risk or simply not as able as others. The next time you see a headline about Latinos' sorry state, flip the script by remembering: There's always, always more to the story.
U.S. Department of Education
ENGLISH LANGUAGE ACQUISITION STATE GRANTS (last updated 12/10/2012)
Funding Status Appropriations
Fiscal Year 2010 $750,000,000
Fiscal Year 2011 $733,530,000
Fiscal Year 2012 $732,144,000
ILLINOIS - State Board of Education
English Language Learning
Reyna Hernandez, Assistant Superintendent, Center for Language and Early Child Development
The Division provides leadership, advocacy and support to districts, policymakers and citizens by promoting equitable access to language support services for students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds who have been identified as English Language Learners. These services will assist them to become lifelong learners, able to contribute to and function in a multicultural and globally competitive world.
Bilingual Education Programs and English Language Learners in Illinois
Districts that receive State bilingual funds are also eligible to receive federal funds to supplement
expenditures in educating ELL students.
Number of Districts that Received Title III Funds -245 school districts received Title III funds of which 132 (53.9
percent) received funds for seven years.