Bilingual Education:

A New Look at the Research Evidence

PEMD-87-12BR: Published: Mar 10, 1987. Publicly Released: Mar 17, 1987.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO: (1) reported on the Department of Education's statements concerning teaching methods for children who know little English; (2) compared the statements to research knowledge on bilingual education; and (3) assessed the validity of Education's policy position to drop a requirement for native-language teaching from the Bilingual Education Act.

GAO noted that Education has concluded that there was no sound research basis for requiring school programs under the act to use native languages in teaching. GAO asked 10 education experts to examine 31 specific Education statements citing research in this field and to compare them with the findings and conclusions in 10 reviews on the subject. GAO found that: (1) only 2 of the 10 experts agreed with Education that there was insufficient evidence to support the law's requirement for the use of native language to the extent necessary to learn English; (2) 7 believed that Education was incorrect in characterizing the evidence as showing the promise of teaching methods that do not use native languages; (3) few agreed with Education's suggestions that long-term school problems that Hispanic youths experienced were associated with native-language instruction; and (4) few agreed with Education's general interpretation that evidence in the field was too ambiguous to permit conclusions.

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