Bilingual Programs Incorporate Students' Home Culture

Special education programs incorporate supportive, culturally responsive learning environments as well as validated instructional practices. Optimal programs incorporate students' home cultures and include native-language instruction and a focus on English language development in addition to validated practices in literacy and the content areas. It is a heightened focus on language and cultural practices that makes bilingual special education distinct from generic special education.

Culturally Responsive Learning Environments School climates that foster success are caring communities based on the philosophy that all students can learn. Such schools accommodate individual differences in a positive manner. Some researchers characterize them by (a) strong administrative leadership; (b) high expectations; (c) nurturing, supportive environment and a challenging, appropriate curriculum and instruction; (d) a safe and orderly environment; and (e) ongoing, systematic evaluation of student progress. Linguistic Support Successful programs are those in which language development is a central focus, whether in students' native language or English.

Students receive frequent opportunities to use language in an environment that promotes active engagement. Instruction focuses on higher-order thinking and active problem solving. Teachers preteach and reinforce key terms, as explained by Marilyn Rousseau and Brian Tam, using visuals, graphic organizers, and realia to bring words to life and make them meaningful for students, as explained by Elba Reyes and Candace Bos.

They help students make connections within and across the curriculum and to their own prior knowledge and experiences, as Mack Burke, Shanna Hagan, and Bonnie Grossen explain. Ideally, teachers provide students with multiple and varied opportunities to review and apply previously learned concepts. Curricular Modifications Baca and de Valenzuela describe modifications to make the curriculum more accessible to ELLs. These modifications are changes in content, pedagogy, and classroom instructional settings to meet the needs of individual students.

For example, modifications may include adjusting the method of presentation, developing supplemental materials, tape-recording directions, providing alternative response formats, requiring fewer or shorter responses or assignments, outlining material, or breaking tasks into subtasks, as John J. Hoover and Catherine Collier explain in their chapter in The Bilingual Special Education Interface. Adaptations of content might also include the provision of native language instruction and/or materials.

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Headlines, Text and Communication

Assuming that most people will not read every article in a newspaper, the communicative impact of newspaper headlines is important in capturing the reader's attention. Some headlines are able to deliver a message potent enough to grab the reader's perspective with great power. In general, editorial letters often contain the most heavily slanted headlines. Beyond the thematic slant of an article (including the headline), the text of the article may be loaded with multiple messages and images.

Even though an article might have an overall positive depiction of bilingual education and/or the needs of language minority students, individual quotations might accentuate a socially negative stereotype. For example, when a journalist quotes individuals favoring the ballot initiative as saying, "'Bilingual education is an evil system of racial discrimination that has destroyed the education of countless Hispanic children in our state,'" the reader may think about bilingual education in terms of "evil" and "discrimination."

When bilingual education is portrayed in a positive light, however, the significant details of how it benefits children are often missing. Daniel Gonzalez, an editorial writer for the Republic, asserted that "scrapping bilingual education would especially hurt Hispanic and Native American children with limited English proficiency", but he does not explain how this might happen. This relationship between the positive and the negative often taps into what we think of as "natural," speculate David Croteau and William Hoynes.

According to this view, nature is something that we define in contrast to culture. Unlike culture, nature is understood to be beyond human control. If social structures and relationships are perceived as natural, they take on a certain degree of permanency and legitimacy that makes them seem uncontested.

For example, readers may assume that it is only "natural" that the difficulties experienced by language minority students are rooted in their home language and condition, which is, in turn, aggravated by the continued use of the language via bilingual instruction.

For example, according to Gonzalez, Congressman Matt Salmon blamed bilingual education for the high dropout rate among Hispanic students in Arizona. The Republic made no mention of the fact that there is no research evidence supporting this assertion.

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A Puerto Rican Vision of Bilingual-Bicultural Education

In the years before the consent decree was signed, Puerto Rican parents and educators in New York City had faced institutional resistance to the implementation of bilingual and ESL instruction and to their demands for community participation in the governance of neighborhood schools. While the "Boricua" community was struggling for bilingual/bicultural education programs, African Americans sought to obtain desegregated, high-quality schooling in community-controlled public schools.

Encouraged by the civil rights victories of African Americans, Puerto Rican leaders created organizations like Aspira and PRLDEF and engaged in protracted negotiations with the central school board. These measures led to the 1974 consent decree compromise. Concurrently, both Puerto Rican and African American communities participated in the 1960s community control "school wars" that led to another political compromise, New York State's 1969 School Decentralization Law.

Puerto Rican community support for bilingual education in New York City had always been high. It was motivated by a dedication to cultural survival, reflective of their struggle for identity in New York City, the quintessential "melting pot" American city. "Boricuans" embraced bilingual/bicultural education as an expression of a pluralist philosophy that respects the language and culture of their children and families.

This was in direct opposition to the deficit models of education embedded in many compensatory programs of the 1960s. "Boricuan" community leaders and educators argued that their children and youth, as native-born citizens of the United States whose native language was Spanish, had a right to be taught in a language they understood and that this type of instruction should prevail until they could acquire sufficient proficiency in English to enable them to learn alongside their English-speaking peers.

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Bilingualism in Holistic Perspective

Worldwide, most people speak two or more languages, simply because multiple languages are used in their environments. Researchers and educators in the field of bilingualism and bilingual education have been interested in defining what bilingual means and how a bilingual person's competences can be measured.

Among the several views of bilingualism, two have predominated in the field: the fractional and the holistic perspectives. The fractional view describes bilinguals as being the equivalent of two monolinguals in one person. This view considers bilinguals as developing parallel linguistic competence in both languages simultaneously, and studies following this perspective often compare bilinguals with monolinguals.

The holistic view, proposed by François Grosjean, argues that each bilingual is a unique individual who integrates knowledge of and from both languages to create something more than two languages that function independently of each other. This view holds that the total of the two languages is greater than their sum, because the two languages interact with each other to increase the functionality of each.

Both perspectives describe as ideal the development of balanced bilingual competence in speaking, thinking, reading, and writing, meaning equivalent fluency in the two languages.

Balanced bilingualism is a concept that is not easily achievable; instead, bilingualism must be understood as a continuum in which language ability changes constantly in relation to the individual's social, educational, and linguistic contexts. In addition, bilingualism may be described as simultaneous or sequential. Simultaneous bilinguals grow up learning two languages in their environments from infancy.

Sequential bilinguals develop mastery, or at least some proficiency, in their native languages before acquiring a second language. Bilingualism emerges when two different language communities come into sustained contact. Language contact in different communities creates a variety of bilingual discourses that meet the needs of the members of those specific communities. Bilingualism is more valuable when some members of each language group are not bilingual.

Logically, if everyone in a particular space were bilingual, there would no longer be a need for anyone to know both languages purely for communicative purposes. Some communities and countries have a policy of official acceptance of bilingualism, and, consequently, both languages are taught and have fairly equal status in society. For example, Belgium has an official policy of bilingualism in French and Flemish, not only on paper but also in practice.

Thus, in the school and community, people receive training and motivation to learn both languages and use them in the public sphere. In some countries, majority language speakers generally associate their language with nationalism and label the widespread use of other languages as a problem rather than an asset. An example of this dynamic in the United States is the so-called English-only laws that restrict the use of languages other than English in public schools.

As critics have pointed out, such laws are motivated by political and ideological considerations rather than sound pedagogical theory or societal benefit. They have little if anything to do with what constitutes a good education or an adequate linguistic preparation for the future.

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The Benefits Of Bilingual Spanish-English Crosswords

Obviously, there are many benefits to having skill in two languages. As the Spanish speaking population continues to grow in the United States, the ability to speak both Spanish and English fluently will open many doors in many professions. A person with bilingual skills is highly marketable and any serious minded professional looking for a career in customer service, the medical field, education, etc. should seek to develop such skills.

Bilingual skills, however, only come with diligent practice of the basics. If you are currently studying to boost your bilingual ability in Spanish and/or English, doing a lot of crossword puzzles will radically increase your comprehension level. Ok, some of you may be shaking your head wondering how the crossword puzzles in your daily newspaper can boost your Spanish comprehension. Honestly, the crossword puzzles in the newspaper will only help half of the equation. Those particular crossword puzzles won't help you unless you are looking to boost your English skills exclusively. However, if you want to become proficient in learning English AND Spanish then spending a little time working on English to Spanish/Spanish to English translation crossword puzzles would be most helpful.

These fun "translation" puzzles can prove to be a great help in boosting your reading comprehension. In fact, if practiced diligently they can provide a tremendous help to a motivated student. Whether you are enrolled in a Spanish language course or are studying an "English as a Second Language (ESL)" program you will discover these bilingual crossword puzzles to be a huge help as they greatly aid in boosting your language proficiency. This is because the student will be able to practice spelling, word identification, grammar and even pronunciation. As such, the value of these crossword puzzles can never be overstated!

For some, this may seem like a radical departure from the common ways of learning a language. Usually, the way in which we learn a bilingual education derives from one of three environments: in a formal high school or college setting; in a special language school; or simply "picking it up" a language by ear. All of these methods have their positives and their negatives, but none of them have any value if one does not practice. This is where the bilingual crossword puzzles come in handy as they have the ability to provide a unique method of practicing your skills and keeping them sharp. While diving into Spanish-English crossword puzzles may deviate from traditional methods of leaning these puzzles do provide a fun, lighthearted method of keeping your skills sharp. Over time, this will pay huge comprehension dividends.

Remember, if there was one negative about practicing material you have learned in class it would be that you are essentially reviewing much of the same material over and over. Chapter one is finite in the information it presents. In fact, the entire textbook as a whole is limited to what exists within in pages. This can bring about a quandary: how do you learn material that is not present in the book? Usually, people will watch Spanish language programming looking so as to expand their exposure to the language. That is fine for speaking, but what about reading comprehension and grammar? This is where those bilingual crossword puzzles come in handy!

With these crossword puzzles, you will come across a number of words and phrases that you may not have otherwise come across. If you are unable to answer a particular puzzle question, you can then consult your translation dictionary to get the right answer. Obviously, this will yield huge results in improving your language skills...guaranteed. So, never discount the value of the brilliant concept of these crossword puzzles.

Ken Stiles writes on a variety of subjects. He owns The Pencil Puzzle Connection Website: Go here to find Spanish/English crosswords for improving your bilingual skills.

Lack of Universal Definition For Bilingual Paraprofessionals

The variety of terms used to refer to Bilingual Paraprofessionals explains the lack of a universal definition for this job. Most definitions, however, focus on the roles that paraprofessionals play, namely, assisting professionals in schools (e.g., teachers, speech language pathologists, counselors) and providing services to children or their parents under the supervision of certificated personnel. Bilingual paraprofessionals are usually hired to provide educational services in more than one language, usually English and another language; help students in public or private schools, either in general or special education; and assist with students who may or may not have disabilities.

The National Resource Center for Paraprofessionals (NRCP) in its seventh report, The Employment and Preparation of Paraeducators: The State of the Art- 2003, highlighted the difficulties of collecting data regarding the exact number of paraprofessionals working nationwide. The report estimated the number of paraprofessionals to be more than 525,000 in the year 2000. Of that number, approximately 130,000 were assigned to multilingual, Title I, and other compensatory programs.

The history of the hiring of paraprofessionals, as presented in the NRCP report, clearly reflects the needs of personnel in the field of education and the changes in the paraprofessional's job description that occurred over the past 50 years. Paraprofessionals became common in the 1950s, when a shortage of certified teachers and parents' efforts to develop community-based educational services for children and adults with disabilities created a need to hire teacher assistants. At this time, paraprofessionals played mainly a clerical role and performed basic routine and housekeeping tasks in classrooms.

In the 1960s and 1970s, federal legislation such as the Head Start Act; Title I, of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act; the Bilingual Education Act, also known as Title VII; and the Education for All Handicapped Act led to the creation of programs that addressed the needs of educationally and economically disadvantaged children and their families. These programs focused on young, low-income children in elementary and secondary schools; children with limited English proficiency, now often referred to as English language learners (ELLs); and children with disabilities, respectively.

All of these programs provided funding for the employment and training of paraprofessionals, including bilingual paraprofessionals. Paraprofessionals hired to serve in these programs still perform clerical and monitoring tasks but also assist the teacher and other school personnel in the education of children with specific reading, writing, and math needs.

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