The president of the Texas Association for Bilingual Education has issued a warning about the ongoing gap between “Anglo” students and those who have a mother tongue different from English.
“The sad reality is that the majority of schools in this country are educating dramatically below the abilities of children with a different birth language than English,” Pauline Dow told Efe.
The approach TABE advocates is intended to resolve the inequality between academic performance and opportunities that persists between Anglo students and the rest.
Dow said that “the only way to close this gap” is with a bilingual K-12 system that uses the mother tongue as a lever to learn English.
“The birth language of the child, in this case Spanish, is the vehicle for learning ... English,” she said.
Founded 45 years ago, TABE seeks to eliminate what it calls the myths about bilingual education: “For example, that students whose dominant language is Spanish need to be immersed in English.”
Immersion, Dow said, “goes against the linguistic basis that is needed for cognitive academic and linguistic growth, which is linked directly to the birth language.”
With TABE’s bilingual system, she said, “(students) learn English better and more quickly, and there are literally hundreds of studies that prove it.”
Among the findings of those studies are the results of researchers Virginia Collier and Wayne Thomas, who found that while they learn English, foreign-language speakers need between five and eight years of parallel education in their mother tongue to overcome the differences with the other students.
By 2025, a quarter of U.S. public school students will be youngsters whose first language isn’t English, Dow noted.