Bilingual Basics

Bilingual Basics News, Volume 10:1 (November 2007)

by User Not Found | 11/03/2011
In This Issue...
  • Leadership Updates
    • Introduction to This Issue From the Editor
  • Articles and Information
    • "A Diminished Vision of Civil Rights" by James Crawford
    • "The Impact of Accountability on Language Policy: Behaviorism for the Masses?" By Jim Cummins
    • "Canada’s Language Policy: It’s Time to Shift From Bilingualism to Multilingualism" By Lynn Shoukri
    • "Language Politics: Examples From Oaxaca, Mexico" by Mario E. López-Gopar and Juan Julián Caballero
    • "The Status Quo of Bilingual Education in Chinese Universities" by Zheng Zhang
    • “How Teachers in Massachusetts Experienced the Passage of Question 2” by Maria Teresa Sánchez, PhD
    • "Understanding (and Challenging) Overlapping Effects of NCLB and Anti-Bilingual, Anti-Immigrant Ideologies: Responses From the Rio Grande Valley" by Patrick H. Smith and Luz. A. Murillo
    • "DIBELS and English Language Learners: An Analysis of the 'Scientifically Based Research' Behind the Test" by David Schwarzer and Daniel Ferguson
  • About This Member Community
    • BEIS/TEDS Steering Committee 2007-08
    • Call for Manuscripts for BEIS Newsletter

Leadership Updates Introduction to This Issue From the Editor

Nancy Dubetz, Lehman College, City University of New York,

The focus of this year's BEIS Special Academic Session at TESOL in Seattle, Washington, was the impact of language and academic policies on bilingual learners and educators. Five prominent scholars presented on this topic. The work of two of these scholars, James Crawford and Jim Cummins, is included in this issue. The six additional articles by López-Gopar & Juan Julián Caballero, Sanchez, Schwarzer & Ferguson, Shoukri, Smith & Murillo, and Zhang explore the impact of language policies on bilingual educators and learners in different national contexts including Canada, China, Mexico, and the United States. Each of the articles in this issue offers a unique perspective on how language policy shapes the educational experiences of teachers and learners by guiding curriculum and materials development as well as student assessment and evaluation practices. As is evident from this collection of articles, the intended consequences of language and academic policies are rarely fully realized. Often these policies fail to achieve the purposes for which they were designed because they do not take into account the power of local political, sociocultural, and economic forces in their implementation. Furthermore, many policies lack a basis in sound research and practice.

Because BEIS takes an advocacy position with respect to bilingualism and multilingualism, we have chosen to encourage the discussion of educational and sociopolitical issues in bilingual and multilingual educational settings around the world in multiple languages. This is the first issue of the BEIS newsletter in which writers were invited to submit bilingual or multilingual manuscripts, that is, material written in English and at least one other language.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the contributors to the BEIS themed newsletter during the 3 years that I have served as editor and Alcione Ostorga, who served as coeditor for this issue. Alcione will be taking over as editor for the annual themed newsletter next year. The theme for next year's Special Academic Session at TESOL 2008 will be "Imagining a Multilingual TESOL," and any articles related to this topic should be forwarded to Alcione ( The upcoming preconference issue is an open topic issue, and manuscripts should be forwarded to Sandra Cohen ( For additional information, see the Call for Manuscripts in this issue.

Articles and Information "A Diminished Vision of Civil Rights" by James Crawford

James Crawford, Institute for Language and Education Policy,

At the core of today's debates over school accountability lies a contentious question: Does the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act represent a historic advance for civil rights, or a giant step backward for the children it purports to help?

This argument has divided the civil-rights community itself, along with its traditional allies in Congress. One side supports stern measures designed to force educators to pay attention to long-neglected students and enable all children to reach "proficiency" in key subjects. The other side argues that NCLB's tools of choice—high-stakes testing, unrealistic achievement targets, and punitive sanctions—have not only proved ineffective in holding schools accountable but are pushing "left behind" groups even further behind.

Disagreement is especially acute among advocates for English language learners. These students pose a fundamental challenge for the NCLB accountability scheme, owing to the near-total absence of valid and reliable assessments of their academic achievement. Usually tested in English, a language they have yet to master, English language learners tend to perform poorly in both reading and math. Indeed, the law defines them as students who have difficulty meeting state standards because of the language barrier. Nevertheless, under every state NCLB plan, English language learners' scores on invalid tests must be included in adequate yearly progress (AYP) calculations and, where they fall short of AYP targets, schools must undergo "corrective action."

In other words, high-stakes decisions about the education of these students are being made on the basis of data generally acknowledged to be inaccurate. Schools with an English language learner (ELL) "subgroup" are being labeled and punished for failure—not because of the quality of instruction they provide but because existing tests are unable to measure what English language learners have learned.

While acknowledging this reality, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and the National Council of La Raza have emerged as uncompromising defenders of NCLB. They oppose exempting English language learners from standardized tests, regardless of validity, for more than the 1 year that is currently allowed by federal regulations. In the words of a MALDEF lobbyist, leaving English language learners out of NCLB's accountability system would mean "removing the incentive to teach them." The two organizations favor increased funding to develop appropriate assessments, hardly a controversial idea. In the meantime, however, they insist on the continued use of flawed assessments to judge schools and, by implication, to make flawed decisions about educational programs.

Critics of NCLB-style accountability—who now include a substantial majority of educators working with English language learners—cannot see how such a blunt instrument could produce academic benefits. More important, they point to the law's harmful impact on minority students generally and on English language learners in particular. The perverse effects are well-documented: excessive class time devoted to test preparation, a curriculum narrowed to the two tested subjects, neglect of critical thinking in favor of basic skills, pressure to reduce or eliminate native-language instruction, demoralization of teachers whose students fall short of unrealistic cut scores, demoralization of children who are forced to take tests they can't understand, and, perhaps worst of all, practices that encourage low-scoring students to drop out before test day.

No one questions that, because of NCLB, English language learners are receiving more "attention" than ever before. But, as many educational researchers and practitioners can testify, results in the classroom have been far more negative than positive. Supporters of NCLB have generally declined to respond to what educators are reporting, and instead have accused the law's critics of opposing accountability or believing that minority children "can't learn."

How could civil-rights advocates disagree over such fundamental issues? The only plausible answer is that there is a growing divide in how educational equity is understood. Some clues can be found in the changing terminology used to discuss school reform.

Once upon a time, civil-rights advocates were united in pursuing the goal of equal educational opportunity. They fought against racial segregation in public schools and demanded equitable resources for all students. Their focus was on "inputs," pushing state and local officials to provide adequate school facilities, well-designed instructional programs, effective teachers, and attention to the effects of poverty—such as parental illiteracy, poor health, and malnutrition—that pose obstacles to learning. In those days, the enemy was clear: a two-tier system that provided an inferior education to many children on the basis of skin color, language background, class status, and place of residence.

But in the NCLB era the phrase equal educational opportunity largely faded from the public discourse. In its place there's talk of eliminating the achievement gap between various groups of students.

The latter term was seldom heard in the 1980s or 1990s, as shown by a quick archive search of major newspapers, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, and Education Week. Then, around 1999, achievement gap suddenly burst into the popular lexicon. The credit for this is largely due to then-Governor George W. Bush and his political guru, Karl Rove, who were planning a presidential campaign in which school reform would figure prominently.

Their strategy—which ultimately proved successful—was to seize an issue traditionally "owned" by Democrats and give it a "compassionate conservative" spin. By stressing the achievement gap, candidate Bush redefined civil rights in the field of school reform: "Some say it is unfair to hold disadvantaged children to rigorous standards. I say it is discrimination to require anything less—the soft bigotry of low expectations." Retiring the Republican theme of dismantling the U.S. Department of Education, he called instead for an enhanced federal role based on the Texas model of high-stakes testing.

In 2001, key Democrats, including Senator Edward Kennedy and Representative George Miller, encouraged by certain liberal advocacy groups, joined forces with the Administration and with the Republican leadership in Congress. The result was bipartisan passage of NCLB.

Eliminating achievement gaps is paramount among the law's goals; equal educational opportunity is not. In fact, equal educational opportunity—which had been prominent in previous versions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—appears nowhere in NCLB. (No doubt an anonymous Congressional staffer performed a search-and-delete operation on the bill, just as one did with the word bilingual, which was also expunged.)

What's the significance of this shift in terminology? Achievement gap is all about measurable "outputs"—standardized test scores—and not about equalizing resources, addressing poverty, combating segregation, or guaranteeing children an opportunity to learn. NCLB is silent on such matters. Dropping equal educational opportunity, which highlights the role of inputs, has a subtle but powerful effect on how we think about accountability. It shifts the entire burden of reform from legislators and policymakers to teachers and kids and schools.

By implication, educators are the obstacle to change. Every mandate of NCLB—and there are hundreds—is designed to force the people who run our schools to shape up, work harder, raise expectations, and stop "making excuses" for low test scores, or face the consequences. Despite NCLB's oft-stated reverence for "scientifically based research," this narrow approach is contradicted by numerous studies documenting the importance of social and economic factors in children's academic progress. Yet it has the advantage of enabling politicians to ignore the difficult issues and avoid costly remedies. If educators are the obstacle, there's no need to address what Jonathan Kozol calls the "savage inequalities" of our educational system and our society.

In other words, despite its stated goals, NCLB represents a diminished vision of civil rights. Educational equity is reduced to equalizing test scores. The effect has been to impoverish the educational experience of minority students, that is, to reinforce the two-tier system of public schools that civil-rights advocates once challenged.

English language learners, for example, are being fed a steady diet of test-prep, worksheets, and other "skill-building" exercises from a menu mostly reduced to reading and math. Their language-learning needs are increasingly neglected by the marginalization of bilingual and even ESL instruction to make time for English language-arts items likely to be on the test. Meanwhile, more advantaged students are studying music, art, foreign languages, physical education, science, history, and civics; getting to read literature rather than endure phonics drills; and participating in field trips, plays, chess clubs, and debate tournaments—"frills" that are routinely denied to children whose test scores have become life-or-death matters for educators' careers.

Ironically, in numerous ways NCLB is increasing the achievement gap, if academic achievement is understood as getting an all-around education and, with it, an equal chance to succeed in life. True civil-rights advocates cannot and must not ignore the reality behind the rhetoric.


Kozol, J. (1991). Savage inequalities. New York: Harper Perennial.

Copyright © 2007 by James Crawford. All rights reserved.

James Crawford is president of the Institute for Language and Education Policy, a newly formed nonprofit organization dedicated to research-based advocacy for English and heritage language learners: The Institute can be reached at

"The Impact of Accountability on Language Policy: Behaviorism for the Masses?" By Jim Cummins

Jim Cummins, The University of Toronto,

The accompanying PowerPoint slides were presented during a panel discussion regarding the impact of language policy on bilingual learners at the BEIS Special Academic Session during the 2007 TESOL Convention in Seattle, Washington.

The presentation includes a brief overview of the positive and negative impact of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) on bilingual learners and highlights the pedagogical (and behaviorist) assumptions underlying NCLB and Reading First policies. It emphasizes the centrality of literacy in our daily lives and offers empirical support for the role of engaged literacy. A number of examples from classrooms are provided to demonstrate engaged literacy. Models of school language policy planning and the development of academic expertise are also included. The presentation closes with a set of assumptions that counter behaviorist assumptions about literacy development and offers some Web resources for readers to gain more information about practices that support engaged literacy practices.


Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L, & Cocking, R. R. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Guthrie, J. T. (2004). Teaching for literacy engagement. Journal of Literacy Research, 36, 1-30.

Kozol, J. (2005). The shame of the nation: The restoration of apartheid schooling in America. New York: Crown Publishers.

Mathes, P. G., & Torgesen, J. K. (2000). A call for equity in reading instruction for all students: A response to Allington and Woodside-Jiron. Educational Researcher, 29(6), 4-14.

Office of the Inspector General. (2006). The Reading First Program's grant application process. Final inspection report. Report Number ED-OIG/I13-F0017. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

Ogbu, J. U. (1992). Understanding cultural diversity and learning. Educational Researcher, 21(8), 5-14 & 24

"Canada’s Language Policy: It’s Time to Shift From Bilingualism to Multilingualism" By Lynn Shoukri

Lynn Shoukri, The University of Western Ontario,

Since the 1960s Canada's language policy has focused on the development and support of an officially English/French bilingual country. With increasing immigration and globalization, does Canada need to forgo its current official English/French bilingualism language policy to embrace multilingualism? Also, how does Canada's continued focus on English/French bilingualism affect its large population of English language learners from diverse language backgrounds?

History of Canada's Bilingual Language Policy

Québec's Quiet Revolution of the 1960s gave birth to Canada's first attempt at developing language policy to establish official bilingualism. The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism was founded in response to increased discontentment of French Canadians in Québec, who requested that their language and culture be protected (Laing, 2007). The Commission's goal of providing equal opportunity for Francophones and Anglophones was to be fulfilled by the Official Languages Act passed in 1969. The Act declares that French and English are Canada's two official languages, and requires that all federal institutions provide services in English or French according to the customer's choice (Yalden, 2007). Although the federal government aspired to unite Canadians, the Official Languages Act proved unsuccessful, and there continues to be a language and culture disconnect even today.

The Action Plan for Official Languages in Canada—The Next Act: New Momentum for Canada's Linguistic Duality (Government of Canada, 2003)—released on March 12, 2003, is the federal government's latest attempt to address Canada's bilingualism anew. The Plan was designed to revitalize and update the commitment to English and French as Canada's two official languages (Munroe, 2007). To ensure quality implementation, The Action Plan led to the publication of Plan Twenty: Thirteen Strategies for a National Approach in Second Language Education, which delivers 54 recommendations for how to meet the federal government goals presented in The Next Act (Government of Canada, 2003).

In the 34 years between the Official Languages Act and The Action Plan for Official Languages in Canada, Canadians had the opportunity to become bilingual, but the census figures released in 2002 prove that the goal of bilingualism has not been met (Zakaluzny, 2003). Is the continued push for English/French bilingualism a worthy cause or should the federal government expand its vision of second language education?

What do Canadians think about bilingualism versus multilingualism?

As a result of international events and changes to the Immigration Act, Canadian immigration is no longer dominated by Caucasian immigrants from northwestern Europe (Burnaby, 2007). Canada is now seeing a more diverse immigrant population speaking a wide variety of languages. Canada's multicultural population is quickly recognizing that business, communication, and trade are worldwide operations where multiple languages are used. According to a recent survey commissioned by the Association for Canadian Studies, Canadians are more likely to agree that multiculturalism is more important to Canadian identity than is bilingualism (Jedwab & Baker, 2003). The CRIC Survey on Official Languages, December 2003 (Parkin & Turcotte, 2004) documents that more than 86% of Canadians agreed that those able to speak multiple languages will be successful in today's global economy and many of those surveyed also maintained that speaking more than one language is a vital component of a multicultural Canada and globalized economy. As a result of the growing opinion that "Canadians should be bilingual . . . trilingual or as multilingual as possible" (Zakaluzny, 2003, p. 2), the interest in learning French is declining. Public opinion would seem to support the expansion of a vision of second language instruction in Canada and prioritizing linguistic diversity over the original official mandate of English/French bilingualism.

What is the global perspective on multilingualism?

The concept of multilingualism is not novel nor is it unreasonable. Many countries already support this concept in their educational systems. Research conducted internationally clearly indicates that the development of multiple language proficiencies is possible, and even desirable in many countries (Jedwab, 2004). All countries in the European Union (EU) require students to learn at least one second language before they are 18 years of age, and 48% of EU countries even require that two second languages be learned in public schools (Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, 2004). Garcia, Skutnabb-Kangas and Torres-Guzmán's (2006) deemed that "multilingual competence is needed and should be an important aspiration, given the realities of most societies and nations nowadays where multi-languages are a reality, at both the local and national levels and in the global world" (p. 171).

Canada's Current Educational Language Policies

Canada's current educational language policies do not support its diverse population. When will the Canadian government's language policies broaden? Barring the federal government's willingness to embrace Canada's growing multiculturalism and participation in global affairs, significant changes must be made to educational language policy and the provincial and territorial education systems. It is vital that the government review two critical areas of concern: equal respect for all English language learners and sufficient teaching support for all educational staff, not just specialized ESL teachers.

Previous language policies did not respect the native languages and cultures of all English language learners. The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism's goal was to create an equitable harmony and equal opportunities for Francophones and Anglophones to partake in the institutions that affected their lives (Laing, 2007); however, the Official Languages Act failed to address equal respect for Canada's indigenous and heritage languages. In 1982, The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was established and exhibited significant emphasis on French and English language policies throughout Canada, but no specific policy was established to address all Canadian language groups (Burnaby, 2007). Even with the addition of the Multiculturalism Act in 1988, issues involving languages other than English or French were still not being adequately addressed. Ancestral language support offered through community classes taught by nonofficial linguistic communities received insufficient assistance, and most of Canada's 50 or more aboriginal languages risk extinction (Burnaby, 2007). In December 2003, Ontario's Ministry of Education recognized the increasing number of English language learners in its school system and allocated $17 million to support these children's English learning,¹ but, unfortunately, not to support their first language maintenance (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2003).

The needed support for all educational staff, not just those in specialized ESL positions, must also be addressed. Mohan (2007) stated that with our classrooms becoming increasingly diverse, there is an urgent need for preservice and practicing administrators to develop new approaches to improve the educational experiences of minority students. Without government funding and direction, new programs risk being inconsistent and teachers may feel underqualified to implement new strategies.

The Ontario government has made some progress toward addressing the needs of all teaching staff with English language learners. In 2005, the Ministry of Education provided a document to assist teachers of multilingual classrooms. The document, entitled Many Roots, Many Voices, is

designed to support teachers, principals, and other education professionals at the elementary and secondary levels in working effectively with English language learners. In it… is a rich source of practices and strategies that can be put to immediate use in the school and the classroom. There is also an in-depth exploration of the English language learner, and an annotated list of references and resources for further reading and study. (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2005, p. 4)

Small steps have been made toward embracing Canada's multiculturalism, but they are insufficient in addressing multilingualism.

A Call to the Canadian Federal Government

Multilingualism is achievable but the federal government needs to view language education as more than a way to please the unsatisfied Francophones of Quebec (Zakaluzny, 2003). As the number of Canadians with broader views of multilingualism and globalization increases, Canada needs to embrace and support its inhabitants' diverse native languages. Canada's wealth of languages can contribute to the growth of its economy, society, and worldwide respect. It is time to forgo the official bilingual language policy of the 1960s and develop new policy respectful of the multicultural, multilingual country that Canada has become.


Burnaby, B. J. (2007). Language policy. Retrieved April 7, 2007, from The Canadian Encyclopedia Historica Web site:

Garcia, O., Skutnabb-Kangas, T., & Torres-Guzmán, M. E. (2006). Imagining multilingual schools: Language in education and glocalization. Clevedon, England/Toronto, ON: Multilingual Matters.

Government of Canada. (2003, March). The next act: New momentum for Canada's linguistic duality. The Action Plan for Official Languages in Canada. Retrieved April 7, 2007, from Canadian Parents for French Web site:

Jedwab, J. (2004). Valuing and validating bilingualism in Canada. In Report on the Symposium on Official Languages. Canada: Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages.

Jedwab, J., & Baker, C. (2003). Canadian identity: Bilingualism, multiculturalism and the charter of rights. Association for Canadian Studies. 2003.

Laing, G. (2007). Bilingualism and Biculturalism, Royal Commission on. Retrieved April 7, 2007, from The Canadian Encyclopedia Historica Web site:

Mohan, E. (2007, March). Challenging multiculturalism: Is it right for everyone? Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership, 10(1), 7-13.

Munroe, S. (2007). A boost for bilingualism in Canada. Retrieved April 7, 2007, from About: Canada Online Web site:

Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages (Canada). (2004). A look at bilingualism. Retrieved April 7, 2007, from the OCOL Web site:

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2003). New funding for ESL and literacy programs. Retrieved April 5, 2001, from the Ontario Ministry of Education Web site:

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2005). Many roots, many voices: Supporting English language learners in every classroom. Retrieved April 7, 2007 from Ontario Ministry of Education Web site:

Parkin, A., & Turcotte, A. (2004). Bilingualism: Part of our past or part of our future? Retrieved April 7, 2007, from the Centre for Research and Information on Canada Web site:

Yalden, M. (2007). Official Languages Act (1969). Retrieved April 7, 2007, from The Canadian Encyclopedia Historica Web site:

Zakaluzny, R. (2003, March 21). New plan won't lead to a bilingual country. Retrieved April 7, 2007, from the Capital News Online Web site:

¹ If the children were enrolled in French language school systems, the funds were allocated to their learning French but, again, not to native language maintenance.

"Language Politics: Examples From Oaxaca, Mexico" by Mario E. López-Gopar and Juan Julián Caballero

Mario E. López-Gopar, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto / Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez de Oaxaca,, and Juan Julián Caballero, CIESAS-Pacífico Sur,

"Obey it, but do not implement it" read the seal the virreyes (the king's representatives in Mexico) placed on some of the laws they received from Spain before they were distributed to the different provinces during Mexican colonial times (1521-1821) (Arroyo Moreno, 2006). The virreyes used the seal to diplomatically ignore laws or use them for their own benefits. The seal was especially applied on the laws that favored Mexican Indigenous¹ peoples because these laws could jeopardize the virreyes' and their friends' interests (Castro Estrada, 1997).

Today, "obey it, but do not implement it" is a useful phrase when one analyzes the language and educational policies created by education systems in different countries. This phrase provides the necessary space where teachers, administrators, teacher-educators, and researchers can exert their agency to either reject policies or develop more just ones. This article has three objectives:

  • To introduce the concept of language politics instead of language policy
  • To briefly present the Mexican context and its language politics
  • To describe two case studies of Oaxacan teachers who work to establish fair languages politics in their classrooms and workplaces

Language Politics

In the literature the term language policy is generally used. Spolsky (2004) referred to language policy as "all the language practices, beliefs and management decisions of a community or polity" (p. 9). He argued that although language policy exists within a milieu influenced by social, political, economical, religious, demographic, educational, and cultural factors, "it is easy to and tempting to ignore them when we concentrate on language matters" (p. x). From our perspective, it is impossible to examine the topic of language policy out of context without taking the aforementioned factors into consideration. To always remind us that language is surrounded by complexity, we have adopted the term language politics put forth by Labrie (2004). Having studied Canadian and European contexts, Labrie (2004) stated that "language politics is the practice of social control on linguistic pluralism and language variation, through political channels" (p. 31). Most times, these practices have different objectives such as to control low socioeconomic status and minority groups, maintain the status quo, and impose linguistic imperialism (Phillipson, 1992). The difference between language policy and language politics is important to us. With the former, we may not see the complexity of this concept, whereas with the term politics, contextual factors such as culture, economics, education, and social control are explicit and inherent.

Social control, through language, is not peacefully accepted by oppressed groups, but resisted (Canagarajah, 1999). It is in this resistance that the concept of language politics is quite relevant to us. From our perspective, being political means

  • to serve others (teachers serving students, doctors serving patients, senators serving their constituents, and the like), and
  • to intervene in government matters on a daily basis, so that one can influence these matters.

Paulo Freire (1996) argued that many of his Latin American colleagues criticized him because he was much more of a politician than an educator. Freire's critics regarded themselves as educators only. Freire refuted their criticisms, arguing that those educators who call themselves "neutral" or "apolitical" are, in fact, more political because they maintain existing social systems, which are often oppressive, through their compliance.

Compliance is usually accompanied by silence: "el que calla, otorga" (silence speaks volumes), as a proverb in Spanish reminds us. It is not our intention to keep our position quiet in this article. On the contrary, we state our position, so that readers can analyze theirs and compare it to ours. We therefore want to directly state our position on the state of language politics in Mexico. Both of us

  • are against the monolingual and homogenizing language politics, which were in place in Mexico for more than 500 years (Hamel, 2001; Heath, 1972);
  • acknowledge and value the ongoing resistance maintained by our Indigenous brothers and sisters against de facto language politics, that is, those politics that are not on paper but that are accepted and implemented by society (Julián Caballero, 2002; Montemayor, 2000);
  • are against the fact that Indigenous languages have been used, but not valued;
  • celebrate—prudently, as there is a lot to do—the new Mexican language politics, which recognizes Indigenous languages as national languages and foster interculturalism (López-Gopar, 2007); and
  • celebrate multilingualism; hence, this article is written in Mixtec, Spanish, and English.

Language Politics in Mexico

In this section, we focus on the language politics in Mexico at the macro level, covering 500 hundred years of history succinctly. Before the Spaniards' arrival in the 16th century, Mexico was (and still is) a culturally and linguistically diverse country. With more than 100 languages spoken and the Aztec empire ruling, Nahuatl was the lingua franca (Heath, 1972). With the Spanish conquest and the independence fight led by Mexican liberals 300 years later (1821), Spanish became the de facto official language. From the time of the Spanish conquest through the 20th century, Indigenous languages were used for religious and "educational" purposes because the leaders believed that it was important to "save," "civilize," and "educate" Indigenous peoples.

In spite of this discrimination and the lack of understanding about the richness and knowledge of Indigenous cultures, more than six million Indigenous peoples who speak more than 50 different languages are still present in the Mexican territory (Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía e Informática, 2006). In addition to their continuous struggle to maintain their languages and cultures, Hamel (in press) identified three important innovations that have benefited Indigenous peoples in Mexico:

  1. The democratization process of the past 20 years and the Zapatista insurgence in Chiapas in 1994. This movement made the world aware that Mexico is not only a touristic and peaceful country, but also one that discriminates and marginalizes Indigenous peoples on a daily basis.
  2. Indigenous peoples have started to voice their concerns and play a more active role in political and educational arenas (cf. Meyer, 2004; Ogulnick, 2006).
  3. Social and language politics concerning Indigenous peoples are now discussed at the federal level, with a focus on legal, collective rights, and intercultural nation-states matters.

Because of this resistance, Mexico, in Article 2 of its constitution, now declares that it is a pluricultural nation, where Indigenous peoples along with their cultures and languages shall be preserved and promoted (Hamel, in press; Nahmad, 1997). In 2003, the General Law of Indigenous Peoples' Linguistic Rights was approved and the National Institute of Indigenous Languages was created. The main objectives of this Institute are

  1. to promote Indigenous languages,
  2. to ensure the success of Indigenous people, and
  3. to foster support among the rest of the Mexican population to enhance the values of these languages and cultures (Instituto Nacional de Lenguas Indígenas, 2007).

As we can see, with these language politics in placed, Mexico could become a more egalitarian society. Nevertheless, the phrase "obey it, but do not implement it" needs to become "obey it, and implement it," every day. In the next section, we provide two examples of educators who were working toward these objectives before they were officially recognized.

Two Case Studies in Oaxaca, Mexico

In the previous section, we addressed language politics at a macro-social level. In this section, we offer examples of language politics at a micro-social level that are being carried out in classrooms in an elementary school and in a university in Oaxaca, Mexico. Oaxaca, in the south part of Mexico, is the most culturally and linguistically diverse state of the country.

Empowering Indigenous Children Authors

Before 2003, Mario Molina Cruz (2000), an Indigenous teacher from the Sierra Juárez of Oaxaca, took down the language politics that symbolically hung on the walls of the rural Indigenous elementary school that he supervised. This language politics stated that literacy was conducted in Spanish only and that the teacher was the only possessor of literacy. Using the theory of cognitive transfer across languages (Cummins, 2000) and Indigenous children's creativity, Mario Molina Cruz started a workshop in which Zapotec children adapted the Spanish alphabet to the Zapotec language, their Indigenous language. This new language politics brought about empowering and identity-affirming results:

  • children started creating their own texts in which they were the protagonists;
  • children went from being Spanish low-level literate to biliterate overnight;
  • children felt very proud of knowing more than their monolingual teacher did;
  • parents became an overflowing source of stories, legends, and knowledge ignored by the previous language politics; and
  • children had a voice in the development of the alphabetic literacy for their Indigenous language.

Indigenous Teacher Educator and Researcher

Our second case comes directly from the Indigenous life experience of the second author, who currently prepares Indigenous elementary school teachers. At a very young age, Juan became a bilingual cultural promoter. Having completed only elementary school and a 1-month training program, he started teaching in a small community. He needed to walk for 3 days to get there. Starting with little command of the Spanish language and in spite of the fragile support for Indigenous teachers, Juan is now pursuing a doctoral degree. (See Julián Caballero, 2002, for a more detailed description of the winding road Juan has walked.)

Juan's academic preparation has contributed to all the endeavors he has embarked upon. For more than 30 years, he has rejected the language politics that affect Indigenous communities. Instead,

  • He currently conducts research in Indigenous communities. His research has shown how Indigenous young children's work is not exploitation; it is a way for parents to instill values of responsibility, respect for the land, and development of family ties in Indigenous children.
  • He walks his student-teachers through critical paths that analyze the language politics in Indigenous education.
  • He collaborates in numerous nonprofit organizations that work on projects whose goals are to revive Indigenous groups' linguistic, historical, and cultural values.
  • He is one of the founders of Ve'e Tu'un Savi, A. C. (Mixtec Language Academy). This organization has worked extensively on the development and the propagation of the Mixtec language alphabetic literacy.
  • He helps educators in California cities who work with the many Indigenous Mixtec children who have immigrated to the United States.

Language Politics in Your Own Classroom

As the aforementioned Mexican cases show, it is important for teachers in different parts of the world to reflect on the language politics present in their classrooms. For teachers in Canada, is the multilingual mosaic underneath an English-only lacquer preventing different languages from flourishing? If 20 languages are spoken in your classroom, do you regard it as a problem to solve or as an event to celebrate? (See Coelho, 2006; and Curriculum Services Canada, 2005, to view the webcast "Teaching and Learning in Multilingual Ontario.") If you are teaching in the United States, has the banning of bilingual education stopped you and your students from using students' first language (L1) in the classroom? Have you been a rebel like Manyak (2004) and encouraged your students to use their L1 at home, on the playground, and sneakily in dual-language books? If you are in Japan, China, Korea, or any other Asian context, has bringing English to elementary schools meant a rush to catch up with "progress" or a way to imitate the inner-circle countries' accent and lifestyle? Do you use a textbook that makes your students feel proud about who they are and what they can do? Or do you use an imported textbook that portrays foreign characters that make your students and their families feel different and possibly inferior? If you are in Africa, do you acknowledge the multiple literacies that people own and have designed over the centuries, or do you regard alphabetic literacy as the only mode to create meaning in your classroom? If your students speak multiple languages, do you see their codeswitching (e.g., speaking two languages in the same phrase) as a linguistic deficiency or as multilingual intelligence? For teachers in Europe, would your European students continue to be regarded as multilingual by nature? Or is bilingualism in English and a European language becoming the norm, leaving other languages and multilingualism behind?


In this article, we have attempted to demonstrate that language politics are not written laws only. They live within us on a daily basis in our workplaces, homes, grocery stores, streets, and every single place we visit. On June 15, 2007, as we were finishing a first draft of this article, the California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger stated that in order for Latin people to learn English, they need to stop speaking Spanish and they have "to turn off the Spanish television set" (Thanawala, 2007). Language politics can be as myopic as Schwarzenegger's advice or the No Child Left Behind policy in the United States or as promising as the policies in Mexico. Fortunately, it is the duty of all those of us involved in education to live these politics in our practice and to share them through our discourses. And as in the colonial era in Mexico, we have the choice to symbolically write on them "obey it, but do not implement it" or "obey it, and implement it." It is our wish that all of us will know how to choose the most appropriate option to favor each of our students regardless of their race, religion, linguistic group, social class, gender, sexual orientation, or any of those diversities that make our communities unique.

Resumen en español²

Este artículo tiene tres objetivos: (1) introducir el concepto de "language politics" (Políticas de lenguaje con la "P" mayúscula) en lugar de "language policy" (políticas de lenguaje con la "p" minúscula) para darle más relevancia a la complejidad en torno al lenguaje; (2) dar a conocer brevemente el contexto mexicano y sus Políticas de lenguaje; y (3) describir dos casos de maestros oaxaqueños que buscan establecer Políticas de lenguaje más justas en sus respectivos salones de clase y áreas de trabajo.

En este artículo, se enfatiza el rol de políticos que todos los educadores jugamos en nuestros contextos escolares. Analizando las Políticas de lenguaje en México, ambos autores exponen su postura rechazando las Políticas monolingües y homogeneizantes que han usado, mas no valorado, a las lenguas Indígenas. Los dos casos presentados en este artículo son muestra de la resistencia de los pueblos Indígenas. El artículo concluye con una breve sección donde se invita a todos los educadores alrededor del mundo a reflexionar sobre las Políticas de lenguaje en sus diferentes países y a implementar Políticas de lenguaje a favor de todos y cada uno de nuestros estudiantes.

Ɨn uu tnu’un davi

Uni tnu’un yɨ’ɨ nuu tutu ka’a: ɨn.- tnu’un nkachi nuu na ndide nkuu nken ndakoto tnuni ndoo nkuenda nchaa tnu’un ŋa’an nchaa yɨvɨ ndeku Ñuu Ko’yo, uu.- Ndajani tnu’un nuu nankuu ndeku yɨvɨ ñide kuendai tnu’un ŋa’an meei ndekui Ñuu Ko’yo ka’a, uni.- Vaayu ndajani tnu’un ye uu tna’an yɨvɨ Ñuu Nunduve dajua’an landa, ye yɨ’ɨ ve’e dajua’an o ye ndeku nuu ñide tniñume nken ndukui nuu na kadai nke ndatnichi yɨvɨ nku yukue’e nuue nuu naa tnu’un ŋa’aen ve’e ndekueen.

Nuu tutu ka’a ndee tnu’un nuu naa yu ye ñide yɨvɨ dajua’an landa nuu ndekuse ve’e o nuu ñide tniñui. Nuu ndajani dɨkɨi nuu na nkuu nɨ ndɨtu’u ñuu katuu Ñuu Ko’yo nken ñeñi iñi ye dio ava’a iyo ye ɨn du’a ichi jɨ’ɨ ndoo yɨvɨkundeku nda’vien chin kue’e nka tnu’un ŋa’an yɨvɨ ndeku nken veji nuu atuu ndatnichii tee nkuu yukue’e nuue. Ye uu vaa tnu’un katuu nuu naa ye kadaen nken ndatnichi yɨvɨ ne’en tniñu tnu’un ka’a, iña tnu’un va’a ŋa’an yɨvɨ ka’a. Nuu uu tnu’un ka’a ŋa’an uu tna’an yɨvɨ nken ŋa’anme nuu ɨn tna’an nka yɨvɨ ndeku ye’e andɨvɨ ka’a ye na ndajani dɨkɨ ndoo kundekuen nu nuu ñuu katuu nken naa ndakɨvɨ iñie ye va’a nka ka’a nu na chindee tna’aen ndɨ’ɨ dajua’an ditnu nka.


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"The Status Quo of Bilingual Education in Chinese Universities" by Zheng Zhang

Zheng Zhang, University of Western Ontario,

Before the college English education reform, English education in Chinese universities had been characterized as foreign language education. After the reform, more attention has been paid to bilingual education and biliteracy development across disciplines. This article I intend to explore the influences of post-reform language policies on bilingual education implementation, and the challenges that bilingual education programs face in Chinese universities.

The Transition From Foreign Language Education to Bilingual Education

Before the College English Education Reform
To promote overall national construction and transnational communication, the National Education Ministry of China (the Ministry) enacted relevant foreign language education policies in 1978. Accordingly, English, as an internationally communicative language, was established as a compulsory course in all universities. However, the old nationwide syllabus for college English education—Syllabus for College English Education—focused mainly on developing undergraduates' pure language competences, especially their reading skills. At that time, college English education was guided by theories of foreign language teaching practices.

Because of the employment of teacher-centered and content-based teaching approach, and the enforcement of standardized tests (College English Test Band 4, or CET-4, and College English Test Band 6, or CET-6), college English education had been grammar-focused and test-oriented. In practice, it was time- and resource-consuming, and inefficient.

After the College English Education Reform
In order to address the above-mentioned problems, in 1999 the Ministry launched college English education reform, issuing the revised version of the Syllabus for College English Education (National Education Ministry, 1999). The objective of the new language policy has been shifted to cultivating undergraduates' overall competences in applying English in discipline-specific domains (Wu, 2005) with more priority given to developing disciplinary literacy in English. Subject-based English education was required to develop students' disciplinary biliteracy. According to the new policy, college English education should be conducted in two stages: English education for general purposes (first- and second-year English education) and subject-based English education (third- and fourth-year English education) (National Education Ministry, 1999).

In 2001, the Ministry issued an important policy statement, Suggestions on Strengthening Undergraduate Education to Improve the Teaching Quality of Higher Education, to promote the implementation of discipline-based English education and bilingual education (National Education Ministry, 2001). The new policy specifies that in the next 3 years, 5 to 10 percent of all the discipline-specific subjects should be taught in English. The new policy also urges key universities to initiate bilingual education in specific areas, such as law, finance, biotechnology, and information technology.

The Status Quo of Bilingual Education Implementation in Chinese Universities

Since 2002, some key Chinese universities have started to implement bilingual education.

Bilingual Education in Metropolitan Areas
Municipal governments of metropolitan cities such as Beijing and Shanghai have offered solid support for bilingual education programs in higher education. Some key universities, such as Peking University, Tsinghua University, Fudan University, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University, took the lead in experimenting with bilingual education, and have so far made great achievements and offered valuable experience for bilingual programs in other universities (H. Liu, 2004). Tsinghua University has gradually included 500 subjects, out of all 1,440 subjects, in the bilingual program since 2001 (Bi & Huang, 2003). And the Beijing Teacher Training Center has supported bilingual programs in Beijing's key universities by offering coherent training for bilingual education practitioners since 2004 (H. Liu, 2004).

Bilingual Education in Other Cities
Some key universities in other cities outside Beijing and Shanghai have successively launched bilingual education. However, bilingual education in these areas is still at the exploration stage. Ways of implementing bilingual education vary in different universities in terms of textbook selection, teaching approaches, and so on.

The Extension of Bilingual Education to Other Disciplines
Bilingual education for undergraduates has been extended to disciplines in addition to those specified in the new syllabus, such as media studies, medical science, physical education, and computer science. With an increasing number of universities starting to implement bilingual education programs beginning in 2002, the programs have received a certain amount of positive response from students. Y. Liu & He's (2005) study revealed that 86 percent of their student participants valued bilingual education as indispensable for higher education. Eighty-one percent of the participants reported that bilingual education programs had stimulated their interest in learning English and helped improve their English skills. However, problems have also emerged as bilingual education programs have become more prevalent countrywide.

The Problems With Bilingual Education Programs in Chinese Universities

The Influence of Standardized Tests
Two standardized tests (CET-4 and CET-6) were launched in 1987 and 1989, respectively, to evaluate the implementation of relevant language policies. Developed over decades, the two nationwide tests have been the most influential tests in China. In 2004, 11 million candidates took the CET-4 and CET-6 tests. However, the tests have unintentionally exerted negative influences on college English education. College English education has been gradually characterized as inefficient and overly utilitarian. The passing rate of the tests has become the criteria for evaluating the quality of English education in individual universities. Moreover, some universities stipulate that only CET-4 and CET-6 certificate holders who passed the tests can get diplomas and degrees after graduation. Such policies led to illegal conduct such as cheating on exams and the illegal trade of false certificates.

After the college English reform, the Ministry initiated CET-4 and CET-6 test reform in 2004 and made major changes in the tests to counteract the negative impact of standardized tests. However, test-oriented English education is still prevailing and hinders the sound development of bilingual education in universities.

For the sake of enhancing the passing rate of standardized tests, scientifically based instructional approaches to enhance students' overall language competences are intentionally or unintentionally discarded (C. Zhang, 2006). The traditional spoon-feeding and test-oriented teaching approach prevails in bilingual education programs because of teachers' misconception that bilingual education is only the extension of English education for general purposes. Bilingual education is regarded more as an extension of foreign language education than as a critical approach to improve undergraduates' disciplinary biliteracy.

The Lack of Teacher Resources
In 1999, the Ministry decided to expand enrollment in higher education. And the number of university students had reached 20 million by 2004 (National Education Ministry, 2005). According to Y. Zhang (2003), the ratio of English teachers and university students was 1 to 130 in 2002. Because of the wide gap between the numbers of teachers and students, bilingual education can hardly be implemented effectively.

In Chinese universities, bilingual education instructors can be either language teachers or disciplinary course instructors. Most language teachers are lacking in discipline-specific knowledge, whereas most course instructors do not have high levels of oral communication skills in English. Teachers in both groups do not have a good command of systematic pedagogy of bilingual education.

Students' Uneven and Generally Low Level of English Proficiency
Students' uneven level of English proficiency has brought about challenges for bilingual education, which calls for practitioners' specific attention to students' diverse needs for language support. Some bilingual education programs are characterized as low efficacy because of students' uneven and generally low level of English proficiency (C. Zhang, 2006). Lots of undergraduates find their English competence far from satisfactory. An authoritative survey shows that 68 percent of the student participants thought their English competence is of "ordinary" level (C. Zhang, 2006). In Y. Liu and He's (2005) study, 31 percent of the participants regarded their command of English as unsatisfactory. Students have to spend lots of time improving their language skills in order to fully comprehend the discipline-based content. Because of students' limited listening and oral communication skills, they find it very difficult to understand lectures and communicate with instructors in English, which further hinders interactive practices in bilingual classes.

Moreover, because of the differences in English education practices from K through 12 in China, students may have various levels of English proficiency before they are enrolled in universities. Metropolitan cities such as Beijing and Shanghai place a lot of emphasis on English education. Students there have much more access to original English materials and more chances to practice English with native English speakers. However, in smaller towns, the second language teaching landscape might turn out to be extremely different because of the scarcity of teaching resources, lack of institutional support, and so on.


Admittedly, the current language policy of college English education has promoted the implementation and development of bilingual education in Chinese universities. However, without joint efforts of teachers, educational institutions, and the whole community, the negative impacts of standardized tests on bilingual education will continue. Furthermore, a sound basis of scientific research in bilingual pedagogy, combined with coherent preservice and in-service training, can help promote the healthy development of bilingual education in Chinese universities.

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“How Teachers in Massachusetts Experienced the Passage of Question 2” by Maria Teresa Sánchez, PhD

María Teresa Sánchez, Ph.D., Education Development Center, Inc.,

Question 2 (Q2), an English-only educational legislation in Massachusetts, went to public voting and overwhelmingly passed in November 2002, replacing the 30-year old law mandating transitional bilingual education (TBE). Although there is no basis in educational research for supporting English-only instruction as the best and only way to educate English language learners (ELLs), Massachusetts residents have voted to place ELLs in public schools in "English language classrooms" by being placed in either mainstream (ME) or sheltered English immersion (SEI) classrooms. With the exception of two-way bilingual education (TWBE) programs, the use of students' native languages (L1) for instruction is forbidden, and teachers can only use minimal amounts of students' L1 for clarification.

This article discusses the results of a study (Sánchez, 2006) conducted during the second year of Q2's implementation that analyzed the ways in which Massachusetts' elementary SEI, ME and TWBE teachers in seven elementary schools with high percentages of ELLs experienced the impact of Q2. The study used a concurrent nested mixed method design (Creswell, Plano Clark, Gutmann, & Hanson, 2003) in which qualitative and quantitative data were collected simultaneous during a period of five months. The predominantly method that guided the study was the qualitative design consisting of interviews with 16 ME, 23 SEI and 5 TBE teachers while the qualitative data collection in the form of a survey responded by 29 ME, and 12 SEI teachers was embedded or nested within the qualitative method. Interviews were analyzed using qualitative content analysis (Downe-Wamboldt, 1992; Mayring, 2000, June; Sandelowski, 2000) and codes were further analyzed through a thematic survey (Sandelowski & Barroso, 2003) to undercover more latent patterns in the data or themes. The Likert-type survey items were analyzed using descriptive statistics.

Nature, Extent and Processes of Changes Experienced by Each Group of Teachers

This study suggested that Q2 mandates were interpreted and experienced in complex ways as in many other top-down reforms (Darling-Hammond, 1998; McLaughlin, 1998; Osborn, McNess & Broadfoot, 2000). SEI teachers were the group that was affected by the passage and implementation of Q2 to the greatest degree. The majority of SEI teachers felt Q2 was a complex, multi-dimensional process that changed their teaching positions and their programs while bringing several challenges and constraints to their classrooms, instructional practices, and professional identities. Although some ME teachers did report that Q2 brought challenges and different working conditions, they did not experience the complexity and variety of challenges experienced by SEI teachers. After TWBE teachers were exempted from Q2 mandates, TWBE teachers did not feel much of the impact of Q2's mandates.

Q2 resulted in changes in teaching positions and the characteristics of the programs, and led to a range of reactions by teachers.

Changes in Teaching Positions

The first characteristic of the change process that the majority of SEI teachers felt was the change in their position. Most SEI teachers in the study were teaching in a TBE program prior to the passage of Q2. TBE programs were dismantled by Q2 and these teachers were required to switch from programs that allowed L1 instruction in addition to English to a program in which L1 instruction was forbidden. The change of the teaching position of former TBE teachers brought a sense of powerlessness and vulnerability given that they did not have a say in the process. A few former TBE teachers ended up in ME classrooms. A couple of TBE teachers switched to TWBE programs as result of Q2 while the rest of TWBE teachers' positions were not affected by Q2 mandates. The majority of ME teachers did not have their positions changed; they continued teaching in ME classrooms after the passage of Q2.

Changes in the Characteristics of the Programs

As a result of Q2, SEI programs were created and implemented within a few months. Q2 mandated the creation of SEI programs, but it did not specify new requirements for ME and TWBE programs. Although educational settings are constantly bombarded by changes (Fullan, 2001a) and although NCLB guidelines were implemented parallel to Q2, ME and TWBE classrooms did not experience major changes in their curricula and program guidelines as a result of Q2. The majority of ME and TWBE teachers continued doing their work within the context of the curriculum guidelines and materials that were familiar to them. The only exception was in one school that received a Reading First grant requiring a new reading program for the whole school.

The reality in the newly implemented SEI classrooms, however, was very different. School districts were mandated to implement SEI programs within a few months; the process was sudden and there was little time for planning curricula, materials, and/or professional development. There were unrealistic expectations attached to SEI classrooms. SEI students were expected to meet the same standards as ME students although SEI classrooms did not have the structure and planning of ME classrooms. During the first two years of Q2 implementation, the structure of the SEI program was very poor. Implementation guidelines were either too general, ambiguous, or always changing. SEI teachers were left with unanswered questions about curriculum, instruction, and or assessment. Still, SEI teachers were expected to address all the challenges alone and successfully teach solely in English to a diverse group of students.

Range of Teachers' Reactions

Although a few ME and TWBE teachers considered that they experienced some level of change as a result of the implementation of Q2, these teachers usually mentioned that their impact on teaching was minimal. SEI teachers, on the other had, talked extensively about the different changes that they have experienced. SEI teachers' experiences were filled with emotions. Teachers tend to have intense emotionality during periods of change (Fullan, 2001b; Hargreaves, 1998; Kelchtermans, 1996; Little, 1996; Nias, 1993). Many SEI teachers talked about how Q2's implementation made them feel vulnerable and how they experienced a sense of loss. Reactions to the changes were mixed: some SEI teachers felt the changes were positive, others felt the changes were negative, and others had doubts. Q2 mandates affected teachers in different degrees and in various aspects of their instruction, classroom setting, and professional identity.

Q2 brought changes to instruction and classroom settings. All SEI teachers in the study felt that their instruction was affected by Q2's mandates. Former TBE teachers who switched to SEI classrooms, and a few who moved to ME classrooms, felt the difference when teaching without the support of students' L1 instruction in a language that students either did not understand or were not adequately proficient. The rigidity that these teachers encountered around the use of students' L1 was very challenging, particularly with newcomers who had experienced interruptions in their schooling and U.S. born children with low native language literacy skills. There were inconsistencies in the way teachers were informed about the use of students' L1 for instruction. Therefore, SEI teachers interpreted the amount and purpose of students' L1 use in different ways. While some SEI teachers reported only using students' L1 on very few occasions and for oral language communication, other teachers reported allowing students to read and write in their native languages. ME teachers who were bilingual used the students' native languages on a few occasions while monolingual English-speaking teachers used bilingual students as translators. This finding is similar to that of the first two years of the implementation of Proposition 227 in California, where teachers had different interpretations of the use of students' L1 (Alamillo & Viramontes, 2000; Paredes, 2000; Stritikus & García, 2000).

Q2 also brought changes in many teachers' professional identity. The majority of SEI teachers and a few ME teachers felt that Q2 affected the views they ". . .held of themselves and their work" (Smyth, 2002, p. 468). Several SEI teachers had a sense of loss in their commitment and in their ability to perform their jobs. Other researchers have also found the same pattern in teachers who tried to incorporate mandated changes (Nias, 1993; Jeffrey, 1999). Other SEI teachers felt that the passage and implementation of Q2 marginalized them; they felt disrespected given that their opinions as professionals were not considered. However, a few former TBE teachers who switched to ME classrooms gained a new sense of professionalism when they started being respected by their ME colleagues, something that they did not have before Q2.


In top-down reforms such as Q2, people disconnected from the realities of teaching and learning are the ones who make the decisions about schools. Policy makers often behave as if the policy process is virtually complete when a new law has been passed and the writing of guidelines are completed. However, they fail to consider how "the new ideas will lodge in the local policy context" (Darling-Hammond, 1990, p. 344). Q2 is no exception. This study showed that Q2 was experienced and implemented differently by SEI, ME and TWBE teachers. Policy makers need to acknowledge that there is a need for a re-formulation of Q2 mandates that will allow teachers' input and more flexibility in the use of students' L1. The focus of the discussion around the education of ELLs needs to switch from the language of instruction to the quality of schooling and the conditions that create successful learning environments for ELLs (Brisk, 2006).


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"Understanding (and Challenging) Overlapping Effects of NCLB and Anti-Bilingual, Anti-Immigrant Ideologies: Responses From the Rio Grande Valley" by Patrick H. Smith and Luz. A. Murillo

Patrick H. Smith, University of Texas at Brownsville,, and Luz. A. Murillo, University of Texas at Pan American,

While policymakers and education scholars debate the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, preservice teachers of bilingual children are learning to teach within the confines of the current law. Teacher trainers and others involved in teacher development programs are asking what can be done to prepare future educators to support English language learners in the context of current federal education policy that discourages native language instruction.

Education policy never unfolds exactly the same way across contexts. Because each setting has its own unique history and dynamics, including power relations among local, state, federal, and professional interests, assessments of the impact of national education policies such as NCLB should include attention to the interface between policy and local conditions (Meier & Wood, 2004; Valenzuela, Prieto, & Hamilton, 2007). In this article we examine the overlapping effects of NCLB and long-standing anti-bilingual, anti-immigrant ideologies in the lower Rio Grande Valley in Southeast Texas and how these are reflected in local preservice teachers' views of language and education. We describe efforts to introduce preservice teachers to basic principles of language acquisition and bilingualism and the legitimately different needs of bilingual students. We emphasize the potentially agentive nature of teacher preparation, based on notions of education as force for social and economic justice. These goals and good instruction are supported when future teachers understand the cultural and political bases of how schools fail to respond to the needs of English language learners.

The Context of Language and Schooling in the Lower Rio Grande Valley

Interactions between educational policy and ideology in the borderlands communities of the Valley take place in one of the poorest regions in the nation. These communities are simultaneously highly localized (surprisingly few students have traveled outside the state of Texas or even the Valley) and globalized (migrants from Mexico and other countries pass through, and many Valley residents work as migrant laborers in other states). Schools here have long been "minority-majority," with Mexican-origin students typically comprising 90 percent or more of the school population. In an education system characterized by linguistic segregation, discrimination, and a dropout rate of nearly 50 percent (Deviney & Deegan, 2006), many high school students view military service as a more realistic choice than a university education, and college scholarships are a primary recruiting tool for local Army recruiters.

It is ironic and sad that one of the most bilingual regions of the country is also a place where many students feel embarrassed or ashamed about their native language and immigrant heritage (Anzaldúa, 1987). One preservice teacher told us that, after moving to the Valley from Veracruz, Mexico, at the age of five, she tried to "pass" as a monolingual speaker of English to avoid being ridiculed by teachers and classmates. Reflecting on the HBO movieWalkout, one student described Chicanos as "trouble-makers from California," and others claimed to have never heard the word Chicano/a before. Although a number of our students each semester were born in Mexico themselves and others cross the border daily in order to study at the university, many begin the semester with negative views of immigrants and the use of Spanish, particularly in school. On the basis of student comments and journal entries, we estimate that roughly half of our students believe that the problems in the Rio Grande Valley are due to immigrants and that improving local education will depend on reducing or eliminating the presence of immigrant students. Thus, an important aspect of our work as teacher-trainers is to help students to learn more about the Mexicanidad they share with their own future students.

The future teachers we work with are generally unaware of the specific provisions of NCLB. For example, while unhappy with what they perceive as negative effects of mandatory standardized testing, especially the amount of time local schools spend to prepare children to take the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS), many preservice students noncritically accept the rationale for standardized testing in English. Students frequently link sentiments such as "schools should not leave any child behind" with support for English-only curriculum and instruction, in the belief that instruction in Spanish detracts from the official mission of achieving the highest possible test scores.

As our students observe in classrooms and prepare for practice teaching experiences, they also witness the effects of ideologies and practices that limit the possibilities for Spanish-speaking students. For example, when trying to help an immigrant student enroll in a pre-Advanced Placement English class, we were told by the veteran teacher that she "had never had a successful foreign student" in the class. At a local middle school in which most of the children speak Spanish as a home language, the librarian told us, "In our school we really focus more on kids learning to read in English. That's why we don't have many Spanish books in our library. I guess if we needed more books in Spanish, we could have a bake sale or something to raise money."

Our concern is that, without opportunities to think deeply about these issues during teacher preparation programs, teachers will unknowingly contribute to the linguistic oppression and "miseducation" of future generations of Spanish-speaking children. In the following sections we describe responses we have developed to help preservice teachers deconstruct and see past the anti-bilingual and anti-immigrant sentiments that characterize many schools in the Valley. We begin with classroom-level strategies, move to campuswide activities, and move finally to possibilities for teaching beyond the university campus.

Responding in the Classroom

A basic understanding of language acquisition and bilingualism is important for all teachers. Perhaps naively, we initially assumed that the impressive levels of oral bilingualism among local preservice teachers in the Valley would make it less necessary to teach these fundamental concepts. While working with these teachers we became aware that these assumptions were wrong and that it is necessary to teach explicitly about language acquisition and bilingualism. In an undergraduate course on Special Populations, we discuss monolingual education and other forms of linguicism as barriers to educational opportunity and equity. To address this issue we developed a series of lectures to help students understand the following fundamentals of bilingualism and education:

  • The languages and literacies that children bring to school are first developed in homes and in the community.
  • We all acquire at least one first language and everyone is biologically and cognitively equipped to be able to learn additional languages.
  • Children learn best in a language they understand.

We also teach to debunk common and persistent language myths through which education policies like NCLB are interpreted:

  • Some languages are better (purer, more expressive, sound better, easier to learn, more complex, etc.) than others;
  • Some varieties of a language are superior to others;
  • Language difference equals deficit;
  • Literacy is more important than spoken language; and
  • Bilinguals don't think straight.

Finally, we model alternative forms of assessment for bilingual learners by substituting an inquiry project for the traditional final exam. As part of a 10-hour observation requirement, we ask students to transform what they learn into foundational knowledge they can use to teach linguistically and culturally diverse students." In addition to writing a final paper, students use PowerPoint and PhotoStory to share what they have learned. Some of these presentations are truly remarkable, as students focus on timely issues such as classrooms that are officially bilingual but in which Spanish is not used as a language of instruction, TAKS preparation and special education for English language learners, and literacy instruction for immigrant children. The most powerful reactions are motivated by students' reflections on their own experiences. One student wrote:

Before this research I was seeing my experience with language discrimination as something bad, but now I have a different perspective. I think that this particular instance of being discriminated against for having Spanish as my first language gives me the opportunity to understand students who are in the same circumstances.

Campuswide Activities

Beyond the classroom, we invite speakers to give campuswide lectures on topics related to the education of English language learners. For example, Enrique Hamel, a linguistic anthropologist and language policy scholar at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana in Mexico City, spoke on the importance of Spanish, English, and multilingualism in the global economy. In addition to demonstrating how bilingual education works outside the United States, Hamel demonstrated that an advanced command of Spanish, particularly literacy, is an important qualification for employment in the growing number of companies doing business in Europe and Latin America, as well as a tool for accessing digital and print forms of information available only in Spanish. He pointed out that policy and curriculum that focus only on English actually limit the number of employment and education opportunities available to bilingual students (Hamel, 2003).

The education writer and policy scholar Jim Crawford lectured on current efforts to rethink NCLB, and how the current version of the law conflicts with research findings on language acquisition and academic language development. He asked students to consider the wisdom of basing decisions about children and schools solely on standardized measures that are neither valid nor reliable for English language learners. Crawford encouraged future teachers to imagine how education policies might design an accountability system that recognizes learner diversity rather than penalizing it (Crawford, 2007). These lectures were open to the campus community and local educators, and students commented that they also learned from the lively discussions that followed.

Personal contacts—our own and those of colleagues—were important in bringing these speakers to campus. We obtained funding from the university for the speakers' honoraria and travel by establishing a lecture series on Language, Education, and Diversity based on our department's mission statement. Although we were pleased with the number of students and colleagues in attendance, our efforts to invite local superintendents and principals were not so successful. Clearly, there is a need for better communication with school administrators, but we also believe that these lectures were less than attractive to the administrators we invited because of the pro-bilingual themes presented.

Moving Off-Campus

Finally, we see possibilities for helping students refine and extend what they have learned in class through professional activities beyond campus. For example, one student, an immigrant, former migrant farm worker, and maquiladora employee, wrote a final paper examining her feelings of unworthiness to teach resulting from her immigrant and working class background. Bigelow's (2006) The Line Between Us inspired her to reflect on how her future students could benefit from having a teacher with just such a background. This thinking led to a successful proposal to present a paper at an anthropology and education conference in Washington, DC. Closer to home, we are encouraging students to rework course papers on linguicism and other types of discrimination in education for presentation at conferences such as the NACCS-Tejas Regional meeting of the National Association for Chicano and Chicana Studies and we are looking forward to watching students continue to grow as they interact with peers and teachers from other universities and other regions.

Final Thoughts

In describing strategies to counteract the unfortunate "double whammy" of NCLB's English-only orientation and the anti-bilingual and anti-immigrant discourses commonly found in our region's schools, we know that these issues are configured differently in other contexts. We have also become acutely aware that changing the educational status quo is not easy, even when we are resolved to act locally and in contexts we know very well. Like the language myths we attempt to dispel in our teaching, ideologies about language and education are more persistent than specific policies—at times, frustratingly so, as in the case of the student who recognized that "everyone has been affected by immigration in some way" but concluded "perhaps I would not talk about immigration as a teacher because it is a very sensitive topic." Similarly, we work with policymakers and school administrators, often bilingual themselves, who try to limit teachers' curriculum choices to a list of textbooks that are economically profitable and politically safe, even when the needs of English language learners have clearly been ignored. The good news is that NCLB won't be around forever. The bad news is that the ideologies that originally shaped the law and that now sustain it in the face of much contrary evidence will be with us for the foreseeable future. Hay trabajo para ratoand we look forward to reading in these pages about how colleagues are doing this important work.

We are grateful to our students in the Special Populations course at the University of Texas at Brownsville for helping us understand the connections between NCLB and local attitudes toward English language learners. We thank the Center for Civic Engagement at the University of Texas at Brownsville for funding to purchase the digital cameras and tape recorders these future teachers used to document linguistic and other forms of diversity in schools.


Anzaldúa, G. (1987). Borderlands/La Frontera: The new mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books.

Bigelow, B. (2006). The line between us: Teaching about the border and Mexican immigration. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools.

Crawford, J. (2007). Reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act: Recommendations by the Institute for Language and Education Policy. Takoma Park, MD: Institute for Language and Education Policy. Retrieved July 1, 2007, from

Deviney, F., & Deegan, J. (2006). The state of Texas children 2006: Texas Kids Count annual data book. Austin, TX: Center for Public Policy Priorities.

Hamel, R. E. (2003). Regional blocs as a barrier to English hegemony: The language policy of Mercosur in South America. In J. Maurais & M. A. Morris (Eds.),Languages in a globalising world (pp. 111-142). Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Meier, D., & Wood, G. (Eds.). (2004). Many children left behind: How the No Child Left Behind Act is damaging our children and our schools. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Valenzuela, A., Prieto, L., & Hamilton, M. P. (2007). Introduction to the Special Issue: No Child Left Behind and minority youth: What the evidence suggests.Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 38(1), 1-8.

"DIBELS and English Language Learners: An Analysis of the 'Scientifically Based Research' Behind the Test" by David Schwarzer and Daniel Ferguson

David Schwarzer, The University of Alabama, Birmingham,, and Daniel Ferguson, The University of Alabama, Birmingham,


In the past few years, there have been many controversial discussions about literacy instruction in the United States, resulting in a movement toward standardization of reading curricula and assessments. As a response to these conversations, the federal government created the National Reading Panel (NRP) to help solve this crisis. The Panel recommended the use of "scientifically based reading research" in designing reading curricula and assessments. Several researchers have challenged the narrow framework used by the panel for defining reading research (Garan, 2001, 2002; Krashen, 2001). Nonetheless, the U.S. federal Reading First Program, mandated under the No Child Left Behind Act, has promoted "scientifically based reading research" based on the NRP findings. The purpose of the Reading First Program is to financially assist state and local education agencies in using "scientifically based" reading tools and assessments, in order to promote reading success in students by the end of third grade.

One assessment, Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS), has been consistently approved as "scientifically based" for use in Reading First grants. At the same time that our curricula and assessments are becoming more standardized, our student population in the United States is becoming increasingly diverse culturally and linguistically (U.S. Department of Education, 2006). To address this issue, the authors of DIBELS have asserted that for English language learners learning to read in English, DIBELS are appropriate (Kaminski et al., 2006).

The purpose of this article is to critically review this claim. We believe this review is necessary to show that the "scientifically based" standards are not being followed by Reading First in regards to the assessment of English language learners with DIBELS.

What are DIBELS?

Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills are a set of tests designed and marketed by the Dynamic Measurement Group to be quick and effective assessment tools of early literacy skills such as phonological awareness, the alphabetic principle, and fluency with text ("DIBELS: Dynamic Indicators," n.d.). DIBELS are timed, each subtest lasting 1 minute, and administered orally by asking children, for example, to break a spoken word into all of its phonemes, or by reading or sounding out "nonsense words." DIBELS are founded on a skills-based model of reading; prereading tasks are measured to predict later reading success.

DIBELS are used by 43 of the states that receive federal Reading First funds ("New Report," 2007). The tests were used officially by 13,869 schools in the 2006-07 academic year ("DIBELS Data," n.d.). In our own state, Alabama, the use of DIBELS is mandated for all students in kindergarten through the second grade.

DIBELS and English Language Learners

The authors of DIBELS cite both the work of National Research Council (NRC; 1998) and the National Reading Panel (2000) as providing a foundation of research supporting the early literacy skills assessed in DIBELS ("DIBELS: Dynamic Indicators", n.d.). It should be noted, however, that the NRP states clearly in its report that "the Panel did not address issues relevant to second language literacy" (National Reading Panel, 2000, pp. 1-3). The NRC (1998) makes two recommendations in regards to English language learners: (a) If possible, provide instruction in reading the child's native language while English proficiency is acquired; and (b) if bilingual instruction is not possible, postpone formal reading instruction in English until adequate language proficiency in English is acquired. Neither report suggests that instruction and assessment in early literacy skills such as phonological awareness, the alphabetic principle, and reading fluency in English are appropriate for English language learners.

In response to educators' questions about the use of DIBELS with certain students, the Dynamic Measurement Group created a position paper to address the appropriateness of their assessments with diverse populations. The authors (Kaminski et al., 2006) defended the use of the test with English language learners in one paragraph:

For English language learners who are learning to read in English, DIBELS are appropriate for assessing and monitoring progress in acquisition of early reading skills. DIBELS have been used successfully with English language learners (Haager & Windmueller, 2001). In addition, research findings on English learners indicates that children who are non-English speakers can learn to read as well in English as their English-speaking peers (Chiappe, Siegel, & Wade-Wooley, 2002; Geva, Yaghoub-Zadeh, & Schuster, 2000) and, in fact, often outperform their peers in phonemic skills (Lesauz [sic] & Siegel, 2003). (p. 1)

Below is our review of the research cited above to support the claim that the use of DIBELS is appropriate for English language learners.

The DMG's position paper states that "DIBELS have been used successfully with English language learners (Haager & Windmueller, 2001)" (Kaminski et al., 2006, n.p.). The purpose of the Haager and Windmueller study was "to examine the outcomes of the first year of a professional development project to improve early reading intervention practices for first- and second-grade teachers in an urban school" (p. 235). DIBELS were used to identify struggling readers and monitor progress throughout the year. At the time of implementation of the project, the school served a 98 percent Hispanic student body (during the previous year the school functioned as a bilingual school). For two reasons, this study does not verify the claim of DIBELS' appropriateness with English language learners. First, the study was not testing the effectiveness of using DIBELS with English language learners because no control or comparison groups were used in the study, nor was DIBELS compared with other literacy tests to measure its success with the English language learners. Second, the particular demographics of the school (98% Hispanic student body and formerly bilingual school program) are highly unrepresentative of schools and student bodies in the United States.

The remaining three sources cited in the position paper (Chiappe et al., 2002; Geva, Yaghoub-Zadeh, & Schuster, 2000; Lesaux & Siegel, 2003) to support the claim that DIBELS are appropriate and have been successful in testing English language learners' reading proficiency did not use DIBELS at all in the design of their study. Moreover, these studies merely found that English language learners can learn phonemic awareness and phonics. It is unclear to us how the developers of DIBELS can suggest that their product has been proven to be appropriate for English language learner populations based on claims that English language learners are able to learn phonemic awareness and phonics skills in studies that do not even use DIBELS to assess these skills,


The Reading First literature defines "scientifically based reading research" as being "rigorous, systematic, and objective" (U.S. Department of Education, 2002, p. 9). Since Reading First funds have been allocated, DIBELS have been widely adopted and portrayed as "scientifically based" and useful for student populations, including English language learners. Although we may disagree with the current definition of scientifically based reading research, we believe that DIBELS do not even adhere to Reading First's definition. On the basis of the evidence provided, the argument that DIBELS are appropriate for English language learners is simply unfounded.


Chiappe, P., Siegel, L. S., & Wade-Woolley, L. (2002). Linguistic diversity and the development of reading skills: A longitudinal study. Scientific Studies of Reading, 6(4), 369-400.

DIBELS Data System. (n.d.). Retrieved June 20, 2007, from

DIBELS: Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills. (n.d.). Retrieved June 20, 2007, from

Garan, E. (2001). Beyond the smoke and mirrors: A critique of the National Reading Panel report on phonics. Phi Delta Kappan, 82(7), 500-506.

Garan, E.(2002). Resisting reading mandates. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Geva, E., Yaghoub-Zadeh, Z. Y., & Schuster, B. (2000). Understanding individual differences in word recognition skills of ESL children. Annals of Dyslexia 50, 123-154.

Haagar, D., & Windmueller, M. P. (2001). Early reading intervention for English Language Learners at-risk for learning disabilities: Student and teacher outcomes in an urban school. Learning Disability Quarterly, 24(Fall), 235-250.

Kaminski, R., Good, R., Baker, D., Cummings, K., Dufour-Martel, C., Fleming, K., et al. (2006). Position paper on use of DIBELS for diverse learners. Dynamic Measurement Group. Retrieved June 20, 2007, from

Krashen, S. (2001). More smoke and mirrors: A critique of the National Reading Panel report on fluency. Phi Delta Kappan, 83, 119-123.

Lesaux, N. K., & Siegel, L. S. (2003). The development of reading in children who speak English as a second language. Developmental Psychology, 39(6), 1005-1019.

National Reading Panel. (2000). Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction (Report of the Subgroups). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

National Research Council. (1998). Preventing reading difficulties in young children. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

New report faults management of Reading First program. (2007, April). Reading Today, 24(5), 1.

U.S. Department of Education. (2002). Guidance for the Reading First Program. Retrieved June 20, 2007,

U.S. Department of Education. (2006, August). The growing numbers of limited English proficient students, 1994/95-2004/05. National Clearinghouse for English Acquisition. Retrieved June 20, 2007, from

About This Member Community BEIS/TEDS Steering Committee 2007-08

President Elect
Shelley Taylor

Linda Evans

Past President
David Schwarzer

Nancy Dubetz

Members at Large
Maria Coady
Mayra Daniel
Jane Freiberg
Madeline Milian
Jane Nickerson (TEDS representative)
Francisco Ramos
Cheryl Serrano
Patrick Smith

Special Committee Member (BEIS Governing Rules)
Sybil Ishman

BEIS Newsletter Editors
Sarah Cohen (General Preconference Newsletter Editor)
Alcione Ostorga (Themed Newsletter Editor)
Deoksoon Kim (Preconference and Themed)

Darcy Christianson

Call for Manuscripts for BEIS Newsletter

The goal of the BEIS Newsletter is to provide a forum for the discussion of educational and sociopolitical issues in pre-K through postsecondary bilingual/multilingual educational settings around the world including the teaching of English to deaf students. The audience for the BEIS newsletter includes bilingual teachers (including deaf educators), researchers, and teacher educators in TESOL. The newsletter serves as a vehicle for the expression of ideas and scholarship related to teaching and learning in bilingual classroom settings. The newsletter also takes an advocacy position with respect to bilingual education. It includes articles, research summaries, book reviews, convention information, and general commentary.

Call for Manuscripts for Upcoming General Preconference Issue (nonthemed)

What topics are appropriate for this general issue of the newsletter?

Summaries of the Discussion Groups you organized for TESOL 2007 are appropriate if of a general nature. (Summaries shorter than the length specified below are acceptable.) Reactions to Discussion Group sessions that outline and further the dialogue are also appropriate.

Summaries of BEIS talks or workshops that you presented or attended at TESOL 2007 would also be of great interest.

Timely issues of relevance to our interest section will also be accepted.

What else will appear in the preconference, nonthemed BEIS Newsletter?

This general issue includes preconference information, ballots, and a wider range of articles than in the theme issue.

When are submissions due, and who should they be sent to?

Due date: November 30, 2007
Editor: Sarah Cohen (

Submission & abstract info: Length, style, tips

Submission Length: 1,000-2,000 words (max)
Abstract: 50 words (500 characters or less)
Style: Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (5th Ed.)
Tips: Begin with central ideas or conclusions, keep sentences short (16 words max), keep paragraphs short, and chunk information (heads, subheads)

What topics work better for a theme issue?

The Spring 2008 BEIS Newsletter will focus on imagining a multilingual TESOL. Submissions on this topic should be submitted to Alcione Ostorga (, the editor of the spring theme issue. Deadline: July 1, 2008. A detailed call for manuscripts for the themed spring issue will be posted in the preconference issue of the BEIS Newsletter.