Opportunities and Potential Problems of Two-Way Immersion Programs in the U.S.

Term Paper 2010 25 Pages

English Language and Literature Studies - Linguistics


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Theoretical and Conceptual Background of Two-Way Immersion Programs in the U.S
2.1 Historical Background of Bilingual Education and TWI Programs
2.2 Definition of Two-Way Immersion Programs
2.3 Two-Way Immersion Programs in California

3. The anish-Speaking Minority Students
3.1 Spanish-Speaking Minority Students and Society
3.1.1 The Assimilationalist Approach
3.1.2 The Pluralistic Approach
3.2 Spanish-Speaking Minority Students and Their Social Identity
3.2.1 The Self-Concept of Spanish-Speaking Minority Students
3.2.2 The Issue of Intergroup Relations
3.3 Spanish-Speaking Minority Students and Family Issues
3.3.1 The Mismatch Between Family and Home
3.3.2 Parental Involvement in School

4. Conclusion

5. Bibliography

6. Appendix

Fig. 1 Models of TWI Programs in California 2000

Fig. 2 Minority Language Students and their Qualification for Free or Reduced Lunch in California 2000

Fig. 3 Majority Language Students and their Qualification for Free or Reduced Lunch in California 2000

Tab. 1 Grade Levels Served in TWI Programs

Tab. 2 Languages of Instruction in TWI Programs

Tab. 3 English Learners in the State of California 2008/2009

Tab. 4 Languages of English Learner Students in the State of California 2008/2009

Tab. 5 Growth of TWI Programs in the U.S., 1926-2010

Tab. 6 Number of Districts and Schools that take part in TWI Programs in the U.S

1. Introduction

Bilingual education in the U.S. has always been subject to lively discussions. Are immigrant children, who have recently come to the U.S., supposed to assimilate into English as fast as possible or should they maintain their native language when entering the American school system? Unfortunately, current English immersion and English as a Second Language (ESL) programs tend to choose the first option. In most cases, minority language students (those who speak a language other than English) are placed in programs which are of a subtractive nature: Rapid transition into the English language not only replaces the native language of these children, but also neglects the culture and heritage connected with that language. Besides this serious concern for minority language students, there is another problem with lan- guage learning in the U.S.: Language majority students (those who only speak Eng- lish) receive an average of two years of foreign language instruction in high school, which does not even come close to develop fluency (Frengel: 2003: 47). All things considered, the U.S. seriously risks becoming a monolingual society in a multicul- tural world.

A program which has the potential to solve this problem is the so-called Two- Way Immersion Program (TWI). The special advantage of a TWI program is that it integrates language minority and language majority students in one classroom and provides instruction to all students in both the minority as well as the majority lan- guage. The central goal of these programs is full bilingualism of both groups of stu- dents.

Due to the high rates of immigrants entering the U.S. in the last 20 years, the need for TWI programs has increased enormously. Since the State of California has received the most immigrants with around 100,000 immigrants per year (Lindholm- Leary 2001: 10), it also has the largest minority language population of students, with Spanish being the prevailing native language. Because of the special situation of California, this essay will focus on Spanish-speaking minority students taking part in TWI programs in California. In particular, the essay will discuss the question how the sociological factors ‘society’, ‘social identity’ and ‘family’ influence these minority language students in a positive and/or negative way. So after examining the historical and theoretical background of TWI programs in the U.S. in general and California in particular, the essay will focus on Spanish-speaking minority students and the way they are affected by society, social identity concepts and family issues. Finally, the essay will give a short summary of the results.

2. Theoretical and Conceptual Background of Two-Way Immersion Programs in the U.S.

2.1 Historical Background of Bilingual Education and TWI Programs

In order to understand the recent growth of TWI programs in the U.S., it is nec- essary to consider the historical context of immigration as well as political move- ments in the U.S. Since bilingual education in the U.S. has been subject to constant change, the theories and practices of how to best educate children from language minority and culturally different backgrounds has varied as well (Baker 2008: 188f.). At the turn of the 20th century, as the number of immigrants coming mainly from Western European countries increased and as public school attendance became compulsory, U.S. government and society called for the integration and assimilation of those newcomers. Notably, there was an obvious trend towards English monolin- gualism leading to the belief that English was supposed to be the only language spoken in American schools. Thus, the bilingual education and the language needs of non-English speaking children were mainly disregarded (Baker 1993: 151).

After WWII, new waves of immigrants from Eastern European countries and the Caribbean arrived in the U.S. In contrast to their Western European predecessors, the new settlers were poor, usually uneducated and culturally as well as physically different from other Americans. Imaginably, these immigrants were not to be assimilated as easily as the previous ones. As a consequence, they developed to be a ‘problem’ for the existing school system (Genesee 1987: 133).

In the 1960’s, things started to change. Alongside the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which declared that no person on the basis of race or national origin be excluded from or discriminated against in any program receiving federal assistance, the Bilin- gual Education Act (ESEA) was passed in 1968 (Genesee 1987: 133). The latter piece of legislation stated that bilingual education should be a part of federal educa- tional policy and help minority language students, especially those who were native speakers of Spanish, to attain equal educational opportunities (Baker 2008: 192). Al- though many projects were carried out, they were so different and badly run that it was impossible to compare them and to establish a research-based concept that would guide educators in setting up subsequent projects (Adamson 2005: 215). It was not until the famous Lau v. Nichols case in 1974 that bilingual programs expanded across the U.S. In this case, a Chinese family filed a class action suit against the superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District (California), named Nichols, that their son Lau had not received any kind of special language in- struction and was therefore not sufficiently proficient in English. Thus, they claimed that Lau was denied access to equal educational opportunities. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favour of Lau, referring to the 1964 Civil Rights Act (Adamson 2005: 217). What followed was a recommendation for transitional bilingual education, in which students from minority language backgrounds are given instructions partially in their L1 (the native language) until it is presumed that they have reached suffi- cient English proficiency to get English Only instructions (Cummins 1984: 9). In 1975, the first TWI program was established in San Diego, California. Ac- cording to the San Diego City School, the program was designed to meet the instructional needs of Spanish-speaking students with limited proficiency in English. […] In addition, since the program also includes native English- speaking students, it allows minority language students to enjoy full integration while it provides exemplary second-language instruction for native speakers of English (San Diego City School 1982: 3; as cited in Genesee 1987: 126).

With regard to the linguistic backgrounds of the students attending the San Diego immersion project, around 60% of the students were Spanish-speaking and 40% English-speaking. Since it was a 90:10 model, 90% of the instruction in the early years of kindergarten and elementary school was in Spanish, while 10% was carried out in English. From grade 4 onwards, English and Spanish were equally distrib- uted. An assessment of the project showed that “as a group, the students entered the program below grade level in English but had either attained grade level proficiency by the end of the program (i.e. grade 6) or had good progress toward grade level proficiency” (Genesee 1987: 128).

For the first 20 years, the number of new TWI programs remained relatively low, with approxi]mately 20 programs documented in the mid- 1980s. However, from that time on, the number of TWI programs in the U.S. has grown significantly. The Directory of Two-Way Immersion Programs in the United States counts a total of 366 programs existing in 2010 (see Appendix Tab. 5). The majority of TWI pro- grams can be found in public elementary schools with 313 out of 366 schools start- ing at elementary level. Only 54 programs are placed in middle and high schools (see Tab. 1).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Tab. 1 Grade Levels Served in TWI Programs.

(Directory of Two-Way Bilingual Immersion Programs in the U.S. Center for Applied Lin- guistics 2009. Available at <URL: http://www.cal.org/twi/directory/grades.htm> [Accessed 10 April 2010]. )

However, the majority of TWI programs exist as strands within the total school. That is, the school offers regular English classrooms at each grade level and adds one or more TWI classes at each level (Lindholm-Leary 2001: 35).

The beginning of the 21st century has yet seen another crucial change in the de- velopment of bilingual education programs in the U.S.: The English Only move- ment. By the year 2000, 36 out of 50 states had already passed laws that determined English as the official state language (Lindholm-Leary 2001: 12). However, the movement is not just about establishing an official English language policy. Craw- ford, for instance, argues that the English Only movement has close connections to restrictionist, anti-immigrant organizations and even communicates a racist attitude (Lindholm-Leary 2001: 13). Clearly, the movement has had a profound effect on the education of minority language students in that it has replaced many bilingual pro- grams with English Only programs.

Parallel to the still popular English Only movement, the Bilingual Education Act has been replaced in 2001 by a new federal legislation entitled “No Child Left Be- hind” (NCLB). This legislation has been set up due to issues such as the under- achievement of language minority students (especially in English language test scores), high Hispanic drop-out rates and fears about ethnic segregation and national disunity (Baker 2008: 198). Hence, the NCLB has encouraged schools and states to move to English Only education through annually assessments of English language progress in reading and maths by language minority students. These tests put a lot of pressure on teachers to ensure the fast learning of test-driven English language skills. Consequently, bilingualism and maintenance of the native language have more or less been ignored by this law (Baker 2008: 199).

2.2 Definition of Two-Way Immersion Programs

As Lindholm-Leary (2003: 30) notes, in TWI programs

English-dominant and target-language-dominant students are purposefully inte- grated with the goals of developing bilingual skills, academic excellence, and positive cross-cultural and personal competency attitudes for both groups of stu- dents.

Howard et al. (2003: 4) point out three defining criteria of TWI programs: Firstly, the programs must include equal numbers of language majority students and lan- guage minority students. According to the TWI Directory, Spanish is by far the most popular language spoken by minority language students, with 337 out of the 366 ex- isting schools in the U.S. being a Spanish/English TWI program in 2010 (see Tab. 2).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Tab. 2 Languages of Instruction in TWI Programs

(Directory of Two-Way Bilingual Immersion Programs in the U.S. Center for Applied Lin- guistics 2009. Available at <URL:http://www.cal.org/twi/directory/language.htm> [Ac- cessed 10 April 2010].)

Secondly, TWI programs integrate language minority and language majority students, i.e. they are grouped together for core academic instruction for all or most of the day. Finally, TWI programs characteristically integrate academic instruction to both groups in both languages.

The distribution of the two languages used for instruction varies according to two major models of TWI programs, the 90:10 and the 50:50 model. In the 90:10 model, the minority language is used in early years of school for nearly all instruction (usually around 90%), whereas English is gradually increased as a medium of instruction until it reaches the 50% line in the upper grades of elementary school. Accordingly, the percentage of instruction in the 50:50 model is relatively equal from the beginning (Christian 1996: 70).

Typically, the two languages of instruction are kept separately, so switching lan- guages within a lesson is not preferred. In order to keep boundaries between the two languages, one of the following options is possible: One possibility would be that the languages are kept separate by content area, e.g. maths is taught in English, while biology is taught in Spanish. Or the languages are distributed by time, e.g. on Mondays, the students are instructed in English; on Tuesdays, they are instructed in Spanish.



ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
539 KB
Catalog Number
Institution / College
University of Paderborn
opportunities potential problems two-way immersion programs




Title: Opportunities and Potential Problems of Two-Way Immersion Programs in the U.S.