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TESOL Responds to Recent Comments on Bilingual Education (April 2007)

For Immediate Release
April 5, 2007

Alexandria, VA – Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL), a global education association representing more than 14,500 English language educators in over 150 countries, issued the following statement in response to recently publicized comments of former U. S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich:

TESOL firmly rejects the recent comments made by former U. S. House Speaker Gingrich equating bilingual education to “the language of living in a ghetto.” Not only are these comments an insult to the millions of Americans who speak a language other than English, but they also fly in the face of research and effective practice for teaching English language learners.

Programs that use native language support for English language learners, often collectively referred to as bilingual education, can take on a variety of forms and use several research-based methodologies. By using native language support, these programs not only develop literacy skills that facilitate English language acquisition, but also deepen students’ understanding of key academic concepts. The effectiveness of these programs in teaching both English and academic content has been proven in numerous research studies and was demonstrated yet again in research released in March by the University of London.

It is important to understand that students learning English in U. S. schools must not simply learn social language skills, but must develop higher levels of literacy in English in order to master academic content. This academic-level English proficiency is critical for success in school, and thus policies for English language learners must be focused on implementing high-quality programs backed by research, and not on politics or ideologies.

As the number of English language learners in U. S. schools continues to grow, schools and teachers should not be limited to “one-size fits all” approaches that restrict the way students are taught language and content. Rather, all educators should have access to effective tools proven by research and the flexibility to implement pedagogically sound policies and programs that best serve their students.

Founded in 1966, Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL), is a global education association with more than 14,500 members and approximately 100 affiliates in over 150 countries. Representing a multifaceted academic discipline and profession, TESOL offers members serial publications, books, and electronic resources on current issues, ideas, and opportunities in the field of English language teaching. TESOL also conducts a variety of workshops and symposia, including an annual convention, regarded as the foremost professional development opportunity for English language educators worldwide. TESOL's mission is to ensure excellence in English language teaching to speakers of other languages.