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Glossary of Bilingual Education Terms

Bilingual education - Educational programs that use two languages as the media of instruction. The teacher develops English skills while teaching content in the native language.

Bilingual Education Act of 1968 - Passed during an era of growing immigration and the Civil Rights Movement, this act provided federal funding to encourage local school districts to try approaches incorporating native-language instruction.

Developmental bilingual education - Programs that foster parallel learning in two languages. Bilingual instructors teach academic subjects in the students' primary language. This enhances students' confidence and subject-matter comprehension - although according to critics, it interferes with their acquisition of English. Its objective is to create bilingual students. This approach is often used with K-6 students.

Equal Educational Opportunity Act of 1974 - This act of Congress endorsed the principle of the Lau v. Nichols decision: that leaving limited English-proficiency students to "sink or swim" in an English-only program made "a mockery of public education."

English as a Second Language (ESL) - A program in which students attend one or more classes to learn to speak and write in English and sometimes go over material studied in other classes. All of the students' other classes are conducted in English. ESL is a component of virtually all transitional and maintenance programs in the U.S.

Language immersion - Programs where teachers use "sheltered English," also known as "alternate immersion," which is a simplified vocabulary and sentence structure to teach school subjects. Teachers may also use the "structured immersion" method of teaching in English: the teacher understands the native language and students may speak it to the teacher, but the teacher generally answers only in English.

Language submersion - Programs where the course material is taught only in the dominant language of the country, e.g., English in the United States, without special concern for student comprehension. Also called the "sink or swim" approach.

Lau v. Nichols - The 1974 Supreme Court decision that required schools to take "affirmative steps" to overcome language barriers impeding children's access to the curriculum.

Limited English proficiency (LEP) students - Students who demonstrate lower English comprehension, verbal and written skills than other students in their age group. In 1997, LEP students accounted for five percent of all public school students. The rate of growth in the number of LEP students is two and a half times that of the general school population.

Plyler v. Doe - The 1982 Supreme Court decision that struck down a Texas law limiting access to public education for children who could prove legal residency or full tuition. The decision supports all children's access to free public education.

Transitional bilingual education - A program that teaches academic subjects in the students' primary language but progressively uses more English. As the students' English-language proficiency increases, the primary language is dropped. This method seeks to place students in English classrooms more rapidly than maintenance or developmental approaches. It is the most common method used in the U.S.


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