• by Texas Coalition for Bilingual Education • IDRA Newsletter • February 2005

Editor’s Note: The following is a position statement by the Texas Coalition for Bilingual Education. Coalition members include: Effective Networking for Advancement of Bilingual Education/Bilingual Education Association for the Metroplex, Intercultural Development Research Association, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Texas Association for Bilingual Education and Texas League of United Latin American Citizens.

As stakeholders in the education of Texas students, we offer the following data as crucial to the equitable funding of bilingual programs, the training of bilingual teachers, and the monitoring of bilingual programs to ensure federal and state compliance and research-based practices in these same programs.

The total student enrollment in Texas for 2003-04 is 4,328,028. Of those students, 660,707 are identified as limited English proficient (LEP), 15.3 percent of the total student enrollment. Ninety-one percent of the identified LEP population speaks Spanish in the home.

From 1989 to 1990 when the identified LEP student enrollment represented 9 percent of the total student enrollment in Texas, the total student enrollment in Texas had grown at a rate of 25.6 percent while the LEP student enrollment had more than doubled (113.2 percent) during the same period. In 1981, when the bilingual education legislation was enacted, the Texas LEP enrollment totaled approximately 25,000 students. Twenty-four years later, the LEP count numbers approximately 660,000 pupils.

In the current school year, a total of 40,676 who were identified as LEP students were not enrolled in a bilingual/ESL program under exceptions, in large part because of the persistent shortage of certified bilingual and ESL teachers. With the Texas Hispanic population among the fastest growing populations in Texas, it is projected that the Texas LEP population will approach 1 million pupils by 2010, or approximately 31 percent of projected enrollment growth.

The strongest predictor of English language learners (or LEP student achievement in English) is the amount of formal native language schooling provided to those pupils. The more native language grade-level schooling, the higher the English language achievement. Bilingually-schooled students outperform students taught in one language in academic achievement in all subjects, after four to seven years of bilingual schooling.

English language learners whose parents refuse bilingual/ESL services show large decreases in reading and math achievement by grade five. Cross-sectional findings indicate that the largest number of dropouts come from this group. The cumulative cost (forgone income, lost tax revenues, and increased job training, welfare, unemployment and criminal justice costs) of dropouts in Texas between 1985 and 2003 was nearly $500 billion.

Current state education policy in Texas notes that, “English is the basic language of this state.” Public schools are responsible for providing a full opportunity for all students to become competent in speaking, reading, writing, and comprehending the English language. Large numbers of students in the state come from environments in which the primary language is other than English. Experience has shown that public school classes in which instruction is given only in English is often inadequate for the education of those students. Given that the mastery of basic English language skills is a prerequisite for effective participation in the state’s educational program, bilingual education and special language programs are necessary for those students. This facilitates their integration into the regular school curriculum.

Based on research and recognized best practices, we the coalition in support of bilingual education, have adopted the following unified positions.

Funding Equity

The bilingual education coalition will support:

  • Funding weights for special populations and no block grant funding.
  • A bilingual and ESL weight of no less than 0.25 of the adjusted basic allotment.
  • A recent immigrant funding add-on weight of .2 for all recent immigrant students from grades three and above.
  • Limiting allowable administrative costs to no more than 15 percent of bilingual education and compensatory education allocations (TEC Section 42.153).
  • Strengthening requirements that bilingual and ESL state funds shall be used only to provide services to LEP students served in bilingual education and ESL programs.

Evidence and Rationale

Under-funding of the program at the state level passes on costs to local school districts, which contributes to increases in local property taxes.
Studies dating back to the 1970s estimated that add-on costs for bilingual education were approximately 22 percent to 25 percent of regular program costs.

Studies conducted in the 1980s in Texas estimated that total bilingual education add-on costs were 40 percent of regular program expenses.
Some states provide substantially more funding than Texas, with some providing up to a weight of 0.50 per pupil.
Funds from special allotments for bilingual education and ESL are invariably used to enhance total campus program offerings and are not used to directly impact training of teachers, quality of instruction, and materials support in program offerings for the LEP population.

Monitoring Bilingual Program Implementation and Compliance with State Requirements

The bilingual education coalition will support:

  • Expanding TEA on-site monitoring of bilingual education programs on a three-year cycle consistent with the requirements of U.S. vs. Texas: Civil Action 5281.
  • Monitoring of bilingual education programs conducted by qualified evaluators and other personnel knowledgeable in bilingual education/ESL programs.
  • Limiting bilingual exceptions and waivers granted by TEA and SBEC in districts that continue to hire non-fully certified personnel to a total of two years. Districts with excessive waivers will be listed as non-compliant under the AEIS indicator system.
  • Returning to an associate commissioner for bilingual/ESL education by creating a department at TEA with ample resources to carry out the bilingual and ESL mandates found in state and federal policy.

Evidence and Rationale

Ineffective oversight efforts have perpetuated serious non-compliance by many Texas school districts. This non-compliance has resulted in a failure to address the linguistic and academic needs of English language learners, particularly the LEP student population in grades pre-K to two with effective bilingual education and ESL programs, thereby reducing the opportunities for closing the achievement gap.

Although TEA conducted more than 1,000 on-site reviews during the 2001-02 school year, agency data show that it did not monitor bilingual education every three years as required by the Texas Education Code. In fact, the report notes that TEA conducted almost all of its on-site visits during the summer when few students were present.

Monitoring for compliance of bilingual education and ESL programs is done by a group of educators and administrators who participate in the Texas School Improvement Initiative (TSII), the District Effective and Compliance (DEC) and accreditation visits. Invariably, the “monitors” are individuals of limited Spanish proficiency who participate in one week of training initially and an additional week of training each year. Reports of non-compliance when districts are to be cited usually are delayed beyond the 30-day turnaround requirement found in both the statute and U.S. vs. Texas: Civil Action 5281.

Assessment instruments are not aligned to instruction and are not linguistically appropriate.

Bilingual exceptions to the required bilingual education program continue to be numerous, repetitive and procedurally approved each year by TEA. TEA has failed to carry out the accountability provisions presently found in TEC Chapter 29.054.

Bilingual education is unique because it is a microcosm of all major education issues including assessment, curriculum, textbooks, research, evaluation, finance and accountability.

Teaching Quality, Bilingual Teacher Recruitment, Preparation and Retention

The bilingual education coalition will support:

  • Implementing a statewide campaign to encourage more students to enter teacher preparation programs in bilingual education.
  • Providing funding for universities, community colleges and education service centers to collaborate in recruiting prospective bilingual education teachers.
  • Adopting a loan forgiveness program for teachers trained and employed in bilingual education.
  • Increasing base salaries for teachers in bilingual education and ESL.
  • Providing funding for certified teachers who have left bilingual education to return to the classroom as teachers of LEP children.
  • Providing incentives and professional support to encourage retention of certified teachers in bilingual education.
  • Supporting SBEC efforts to improve the teaching of bilingual education as a part of continuing professional development for teachers.

Evidence and Rationale

School districts continue to assign poor quality teachers and permanent substitutes to work with the LEP population. The practice of using permanent substitutes is used by school districts to circumvent TEA and SBEC requirements. This practice is usually in the lower grades where the highest numbers of LEP students are enrolled.

Studies have documented that identification and successful recruitment of bilingual and ESL certified teachers have been pervasive problems in school districts throughout Texas.

Researchers have determined that at least one out of three, or approximately 30 percent, of new teachers hired to work in bilingual or ESL classrooms are not certified to teach in those areas. The highest incidence of non-certified teachers occurs in the elementary school level.

Demographic and enrollment trend data indicate that LEP pupils will become an increasing proportion of the Texas student population, thereby expanding the need for more teachers prepared to work in bilingual education and ESL classes.

– January 2005

[©2005, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the February 2005 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]