- New York state is gearing up for some changes in requirements regarding bilingual education.
- Starting next fall, districts will be required to create bilingual options if 20 or more students speak the same non-English language. Districts currently only have to do so if there are 20 or more students in a single building who speak the same non-English language.
- Some options for districts working to meet the new regulations and create opportunities for growing immigrant student populations: single-language classrooms with all lessons taught in a language other than English, transitional bilingual classrooms that teach certain subjects in students' native tongues and others in English, and dual-language programs that divide classes during instructional time to teach lessons in the language that best suits particular students.
With the shift coming next fall, there is more emphasis in changing the perception of bilingual education. For example, there has been a proposal to give bilingual students a special seal on their diploma to recognize their accomplishments.
Bilingual education is an often debated and discussed topic, especially in California where a bill before Gov. Jerry Brown could in 2016 give the state's voters the option to annul Proposition 227, a bill that requires most schools to teach only in English. Prop 227, which essentially bans bilingual education, was introduced to the state in 1998.
Bans on bilingual education grew in part out of fear that immigrant students would not learn English if given the option to continue speaking in their native language. This, however, is not true according to Yale University linguistic professor Claire Bowern, who recently penned an essay where she set out to dispel that notion with evidence that children of immigrants become fluent in a country's major language within a generation. Bowern additionally argued that bilingual education is beneficial for all students, not just the affluent.
Aiding the arguments of bilingual education advocates, like Bowern, is growing evidence that learning more than one-language can be an asset to developmental growth and attention spans. Researchers at York University in Toronto recently published a study finding that learning to juggle two languages in your mind actually strengthens the brain's functions and improves attention.