Bilingual Education: Does It Work?

March 11, 1988

Report Outline
Special Focus


The debate over bilingual education is as heated today as it was 20 years ago, when Congress began federal funding for it. Educators still don't agree on the best instructional method, or even the ultimate goal.

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When Ana Daisy Peralta arrived in this country from the Dominican Republic at age 14, the only language she knew was Spanish. All of her ninth-grade classes at New York's Louis D. Brandeis High School were taught in Spanish except for reading and a special course in English as a second language. Now in her 20s, Daisy, as she is known to her friends, says she “understood a lot” of English after just six months in the United States. In her second year of high school, Daisy was placed in her first “mainstream” class with English-speaking students. By the 11th grade, all of her classes were in English, except for a Spanish-language elective, and she was reading English at the 12th-grade level.

Today, Daisy is a graduate of Georgetown University, fluent in both Spanish and English, and an American citizen. Her rapid progress in English and her academic achievements represent a success story for the type of bilingual education that dominates American public schools today—a method known as “transitional” bilingual education. Although the method can vary from school to school, it generally involves teaching foreign-language children academic courses such as math and social studies in their native languages while at the same time helping them gain fluency in English.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Bilingual Education and ESL
Dec. 11, 2009  Bilingual Education vs. English Immersion
Nov. 17, 2000  Future of Language
Jan. 19, 1996  Debate Over Bilingualism
Aug. 13, 1993  Bilingual Education
Mar. 11, 1988  Bilingual Education: Does It Work?
Sep. 19, 1980  Foreign Languages: Tongue-Tied Americans
Aug. 19, 1977  Bilingual Education
Sep. 24, 1958  Foreign Language Study
Bilingual and Multicultural Education
Civil Rights: Hispanic Americans