Latino State News
As Latino and Other Immigrant Populations Grow, Bilingual Education is Needed to Keep Kids on Track
The following is a portion of “Caught Between Two Language” written by Rebecca Harris for the Catalyst-Chicago.
In CPS, 12 percent of English-language learners are in the middle grades, and many are at risk of failing in high school. Why? Middle-grades bilingual students present two challenges to schools: teaching adequate English as well as increasingly tough academic content.
As her 7th-grade students bury their noses in the book “Parrot in the Oven,” teacher Elizabeth Carrillo asks a comprehension question that is written in two languages on an overhead projector.
“What happened before, that made [one of the characters] think that?” Carrillo asks. “¿Qué pasó antes en el libro?”
Carrillo, who’s teaching a lesson on inferences, has written the definition of the word on the overhead, with a formula—in English and Spanish—for drawing inferences by combining what the text states with their prior knowledge.
The class uses a mix of English and Spanish editions of the book. Carrillo explains that she needs to use both versions because her students’ literacy skills vary widely. Her biggest challenge: students who are “not literate, really, in English or Spanish.”