The Capitalist Ideals of Supply and Demand

The capitalist ideals of supply and demand, specialization, competition, and freedom of choice foster the development of schools that are compelled to implement the necessary methods to remain in business. Charter schools, although able to operate with relative flexibility, must serve the needs of parents and students while being held accountable, like any other public school, for student achievement.

Ultimately, schools must meet the required standards of academic rigor and excellence, or it will be shut down. Several studies of existing charter schools have shown mixed results; however, for those students with the greatest need, gains have been steady and positive. Considering all of these factors (flexibility, competition, innovation, and diverse student population), charter schools are a natural vehicle for bilingual education. In some instances, charter schools are the only vehicle for bilingual education, especially in states such as California and Arizona, where Propositions 227 and 203, respectively, abolished the right of families to enroll their children in this type of educational program.

Although bilingual education in the context of charter schools is generally viewed as a tool that aids in achieving rigorous educational outcomes for English language learners as well as native English speakers, it is also viewed as ensuring equal access to opportunity and fostering positive cultural identity and self-esteem, which can be linked to academic success. In this latter capacity, bilingual schools offer an opportunity for students to actively pursue a meaningful connection with a culture or heritage through language maintenance and development.

Although bilingual education has been at the center of heated political discussions, when linked to charter schools, it can be consistent with the concepts of parental choice, freedom from overregulation, and innovation. There are numerous bilingual schools in the United States today, serving as testing grounds for finding out whether this methodology works or where and with whom it may work better. A wide array of bilingual programs exists; however, a common model employed with emerging success by these schools is two-way, dual-language immersion.

This model combines students of the same age or grade level who are native speakers of different languages, with the goal of the children becoming fluent in more than one language. This model is most effective when the number of students in each group is evenly distributed and the proper supports are readily available, such as bilingual teachers, assistants, books, and other materials. Two charter schools exemplify this model: District of Columbia Bilingual Public Charter School, in Washington, D.C., and El Sol Santa Ana Science and Arts Academy Charter School, in Santa Ana, California.

Each offers students a dual-language immersion model in Spanish and English and a culturally based education anchored in program enhancements, including the arts, an extended day and year, and additional family support services. Although these are relatively new schools, each having been in operation for no more than a few years, as of 2006, they have embraced bilingual education as their program of choice and offer it in response to the needs and demands of their communities.

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