Lack of Support in Bilingual Education Programs

by multilingualmania on October 24, 2009

in Bilingual Education

Over the past couple of days I went to Sacramento, California to participate on a standard-setting committee with a group of bilingual educators, the California Department of Education, and Educational Testing Services (ETS). What is a standard-setting committee you ask? It’s basically a committee that works on creating expectations for assessments. In this case, we were setting standards for what would be considered advanced, proficient, basic, below basic, and far below basic for the Standards-based Test in Spanish (STS),  the Spanish equivalent to the California Standards Test that is administered each school year to students in California schools.

Throughout the committee meeting, I met a number of teachers who spoke with me about their bilingual programs. I was dismayed to learn that a large percentage of the teachers had once been bilingual teachers, but are now currently teaching in English settings because their bilingual programs had been dismantled. Other teachers discussed with me that they are unaware as to which type of bilingual program within which they teach because they have been given little direction from their school districts or school administrators about the program model design and expectations for their bilingual program. This is upsetting to me, to say the least.

It’s disconcerting to me that bilingual teachers are not given guidance as to how many minutes they should teach in each subject, which subjects should be taught in each language, what materials should be used, and so on. If a bilingual program is bound to fail, it will most definitely be a bilingual program that does not have clear guidelines regarding program implementation. So I have decided to work on a future post about the critical components that are essential for the success of each and every bilingual education program.

So this is now my newest goal-to blog a bit about the critical components of effective bilingual education programs. I’d also like to include a couple of posts for parents so that they can ask the right questions and demand that our bilingual programs receive the support that they need.

If you are a bilingual teacher or a parent of a student in a bilingual program who has a story to tell about the lack of support in your bilingual program, please contact me by leaving a comment here or by emailing me at I am interested in hearing a variety of perspectives on this issue, and I will of course keep you anonymous if you choose. On the other hand, if you are a parent or bilingual teacher who has been blessed with a tremendous amount of support within your bilingual program, I would also like to hear your story!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sara Delgado October 25, 2009 at 11:32 am

As a bilingual educator, one downfall I have found with bilingual programs, is that oftentimes the program model changes because of the lack of qualified teachers. Rather than search high and low for qualified, experienced educators that can implement the model at hand, the administrators simply adjust the model and mold it to the teachers that are available at the time. For example, an 80/20 two way immersion model might become a 50/50 model from one year to the next due to staffing issues. In this instance, if there are not multiple bilingual teachers available for one grade level, the students will simply work with two teachers, one monolingual English teacher and one monolingual target language teacher (or bilinugal teacher, depending on the model.) But, when more than one qualified bilingual teacher is located, the model returns to 80/20. These type of inconsistencies are not apppropriate for the students or for the stability of the program.

multilingualmania October 25, 2009 at 12:42 pm

You are absolutely correct! Program models should not be changed just because of the lack of teachers. It’s been my experience that many times it’s not even an issue of the lack of bilingual teachers, but it was actually lack of planning by administration before time to locate teachers. I have known of programs in areas where there are tons of bilingual teachers, but the administration at the school actually started the program without thinking about personnel-the program gets to a certain level and there aren’t any extra spaces available to hire bilingual teachers, and the administrators don’t want to get rid of an English teacher in order to make space for a bilingual teacher.

Thank you for your comment!

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