Language Barrier
Detorit Free Press Editorial
August 31, 2005

The U.S Department of Education should release a report commissioned two years ago on the effectiveness of bilingual education. School districts teaching English as a second language to immigrant children need to know what the tax-funded research found.

The department's plan to publish the findings in book form instead of releasing them through normal government channels is only contributing to a perception that the Bush administration tends to sit on information with which it disagrees while trumpeting reports that buttress administration positions.

The delayed release of this report is raising such questions because of conservative activists who think public schools should abandon bilingual instruction in favor of English immersion courses.

The object here should be to do what's best for children who enter public schools without a working knowledge of the English language. They cannot be left behind; the question is how best to help them keep up.

The No Child Left Behind Act gives immigrant students three years before they are tested in English. With that tough standard, the government ought to be interested in sharing with educators the findings of
the nonpartisan group of professors who studied bilingual education. They need to know if the government has concluded they are on the right track or need to try a new direction.

Opening the report is the easiest way to answer some of these questions. But relegating the research to a book that may or may not get published -- and, if it is, charging educators to see what it says -- is not advancing an important debate and undermining the administration's credibility on education issues.

Copyright 2005 Detroit Free Press Inc.