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CHAPTER 4 THE FINAL PUSH, 1990S INTRODUCTION Opposition to bilingual education decreased in the early 1990s, at least within the executive and legislative branch of the federal government. The constant need for Latino votes by the Republican Party as well as the election of a Democratic president blunted attacks against this policy in the first half of the 1990s. By mid-decade, however, organized opposition to bilingual education significantly increased throughout the country. The resurgence in opposition was due to several factors, including the reauthorization of the Bilingual Education Act of 1994, the Republican control of both houses of Congress during the 1994 elections, the state initiatives against bilingual education in California and Arizona, and public opinion polls indicating that most Americans, including apparently Latinos, opposed bilingual education. Opponents became more diverse in this decade. In addition to conservative special interest groups such as the Republican Party, Anglo parent groups, administrators, assimilationists and U.S. English groups, they also included the following groups: 1. educational traditionalists: those who favored improved standards , rigorous accountability measures, and high stakes testing. 2. political opportunists: politicians, especially members of the Democratic Party, who changed their positions on important issues such as bilingual education in order to gain political favor with the dominant ruling groups and 77 7 8 C O N T E S T E D P O L I C Y 3. los ignorantes (the ignorant ones): individuals who did not understand or who refused to understand that one of the primary purposes of bilingual education was to teach English as quickly as instructionally possible. DECLINE AND RESURGENCE OF ATTACKS AGAINST BILINGUAL EDUCATION Several important political reasons accounted for the decrease in opposition to bilingual education in the early 1990s. First, the George Bush administration and the Republican Party needed to attract Latino voters during the 1992 presidential election. One of the ways Republicans sought to accomplish this was by taking a stand in support of bilingual education , an issue dear to many Latinos. In early 1991, President Bush took such a stand when he issued the final results of a Department of Education study favoring bilingual education. This praise for bilingual education , noted one journalist, “was a marked shift from the stand of the Reagan administration, which diverted funding from bilingual programs at the urging of conservatives opposed to extensive native-language instruction.”1 The Department of Education in February 1991 released the findings of this research project, originally known as the Ramirez Report (named after its principal investigator, J. David Ramirez). This comprehensive study compared the three most common methods of teaching English Language Learners (ELLs): late-exit bilingual education, earlyexit bilingual education, and English immersion. In English immersion, all instruction was conducted in English. Students in early-exit bilingual education programs were taught in their native language for the first three years of elementary schooling and then placed in regular English language classrooms. Those in late-exit bilingual education programs were taught in their native languages at least forty percent of the time and stayed in the program through the sixth grade. This study, begun during the Reagan administration in 1983, initially showed the relative success of late-exit bilingual education over T H E F I N A L P U S H , 1 9 9 0 S 7 9 English-only methods. But the final results actually showed that all three methods worked. “Based on this study, we can conclude that bilingual education benefits students and school administrators can choose the method best suited to their students,” said Ted Sanders, acting education secretary.2 Educators such as Rita Esquivel, the Department of Education’s bilingual education director, said they hoped that the study would lay to rest the political storm over the use of native language instruction versus immersion programs in which only English was used. This study did no such thing. Bilingual advocates continued to believe that ELLs needed native language instruction to keep pace academically while learning English whereas opponents continued to believe that students should learn English as quickly as possible, without the use of their native language . Analysis of this report, in fact, showed that while all three methods were successful in teaching ELLs, the most effective of these methods was the late-exit model or the model utilizing the greatest amount of native language instruction.3 Opposition to bilingual education also decreased during the early 1990s as a result of the election of William Jefferson Clinton, a Democrat , to the presidency. President...


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