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Bilingual Education

February 25, 1996

I read your Feb. 18 editorial on bilingual education with great interest, since I did not grow up speaking English. The first contact I had with English was when my parents put me in a child-care center at age 3. Within six months, with the help of a sympathetic friend and the kind people there, I was speaking somewhat fluent English, and understood well enough to understand Smurfs cartoons. Upon starting school, I was able to compete in a class full of students who had English as their native language.

Early exposure to English was crucial to my development in the language. Wouldn't a program similar to Head Start, which would teach English to nonnative children before they entered kindergarten, be better?


Los Angeles


* Why do I have the feeling that your editorial's words of support for the current bilingual program in the LAUSD come directly from the bilingual department of the district? Why do I wonder who the researchers and educators who support such programs are?

How do I, a teacher with 30 years of experience here in Los Angeles, know that the parents at Ninth Street School are on the right path? Why doesn't your paper talk to teachers who are not bilingual and who do not stand to lose $5,000 a year if the current failing program is dropped?


Studio City


* Regarding the parent boycott of Ninth Street School because of their dissatisfaction with the bilingual program: The parents are concerned about their children's progress in learning English. Has anyone evaluated these specific students? Language learning is complex. If students are progressing slowly, there could be many reasons and many remedies.

It would be a mistake to insist on an English-only program. As the Times reported on Jan. 13, Virginia Collier's long-term study of large numbers of students in a variety of programs showed that a strong foundation in the first language is an essential component of student success.

Instruction in English Language Development (ELD, also known as ESL) is a legal requirement for all second-language students, whether or not they are in a bilingual program. Outstanding bilingual education programs combine high-quality teaching of subjects in the students' home language with daily instruction and activities designed to teach English.

Alice Callaghan is obviously concerned with the students' welfare, but she is not an educator trained to work with second-language students. She should not encourage parents to engage in a media war against the school and against the concept of bilingual education. Instead, she should help them work with the school to improve the educational program for the children.

SARA FIELDS, Elementary

Level Chair, California Assn.

of Teachers of English

to Speakers of Other Languages

Culver City


* I think that our parents should come to school and visit the classrooms to see that we are learning English and Spanish.


Ninth Street School

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