Language Mindority Education in the United States: Implications of the Ramirez Report
Controversy continues over the most reasonable conclusions to draw from the accumulated research evidence on the effectiveness of various program models for students who are not proficient in English. This paper examines a report prepared for the U.S. Department of Education on three program models for language minority children: structured English immersion strategy and early-exit and late-exit bilingual education.
The most conservative, uncontroversial conclusion drawn from the report is that there are no differences in results among the programs studied (Ramirez, Yuen, & Ramey, 1991). The author of this paper draws additional conclusions. An obvious implication is that the amount of time spent using a second language can no longer be considered the most important influence on learning it. A number of other factors can be critically important in minority language children's second language learning and school success. Teacher qualifications and parent involvement are two such factors that receive strong research support and are rightly emphasized by Ramirez et al.
Teachers in late-exit programs, for example, had more graduate education and more specialized training for working with language minority children than teachers in immersion or early-exit programs. They were also more proficient in Spanish and as proficient in English as teachers in the other programs. In addition, late-exit parents reported more participation in their children's education.
Although there is other evidence of the long-term benefits of late-exit bilingual programs (see, e.g., Rosier & Holm, 1990), the author reasons that bilingual programs are not feasible for all language minority children. In instances where bilingual education is not feasible, carefully implemented immersion strategy programs are clearly better than the lack of any support that too many language minority children confront today.