Living in a country founded primarily on the principles of diversity and cultural freedom, it seems odd that the idea of bilingual classrooms in elementary and middle schools is so readily rejected. Yet, in an age where the number of Spanish-speakers in the U.S. continues to increase, many current and future elementary educators haven’t even considered the need for bilingual education.
Vardaman Elementary School, an elementary school in northeast Mississippi, is about to become the state’s first predominantly Latino primary school, and with only one bilingual teacher on staff at Vardaman, Mississippi schools continue to fall further and further behind.
According to education researcher Megan Hopkins, “bilingual instruction isn’t valued, so teachers are not pursuing that credential.”
This “English-only” attitude is not only inconvenient for young students and their hope for a quality education, it’s detrimental. Things like standardized tests that are a requirement in the public school system are so often catered to a specific type of student that minorities are hardly given a fighting chance. Failing test scores not only reflect poorly on the students, but reflect poorly on the teachers and administrators, many times leading to decreased funding.
While bilingual education is decided on a state-by-state basis, only three states, Texas, Illinois and New Jersey, actually employ the practice. The remaining states opt for either the English immersion technique, shoving students into the public schools and forcing them to learn as they go, or leave the decision up to the individual districts. With a lack of funding, it’s no secret which side the districts choose.
With test scores seeing no improvement and schools suffering, it would seem that implementing some form of bilingual education can only help. Primary schools, especially in southern states, are seeing an influx of Spanish-speaking students. No matter your stance on standardized testing, immigration reform or the public school system, it is clear that a change is needed. A country known for welcoming all races and cultures should take the first step and help these students become the American citizens they’ve always wanted to be but never had the chance.
Comments are welcome! I’m not an education major by any means, so I appreciate other insight.