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Illinois School District Runs Up Against Bilingual Mandate

The administrators of the Diamond Lake School District 76 in Mundelein, Ill., don't want to have to provide bilingual education, even though Illinois requires it when a school district has at least 20 students who speak a language other than English, according to a Feb. 27 article in the Chicago Tribune.

In "Mundelein District Challenges State Over Bilingual Education," the administrators of Diamond Lake contend that a decision to provide instruction almost entirely in English in 2003 has led to improved test scores. The state just learned in a review last spring that the school district had made the switch away from bilingual education. Now it's uncertain if the district will continue to be able to receive special state funds for English-language learners, since it's not complying with the mandate to offer bilingual education.

Advocates of bilingual education are often upset about how voters in Arizona, California, and Massachusetts approved laws that greatly curtailed bilingual education in those states. In Arizona, the changes made it almost impossible for school districts to offer bilingual instruction.

I can see how educators in school districts that prefer to teach English-language learners in English also seek flexibility—in states that require bilingual education—to be able to choose what method they think makes the most sense for their community.

For more about states that require bilingual education, see "NCLB Seen a Damper on Bilingual Programs."

Do you think states should mandate a particular kind of instruction for English-language learners?

Update: A March 2 article from the Daily Herald, "Bilingual teaching methods at issue," gives additional details.

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