Landmark Year For Bilingual Education

The year 1974 was a landmark year for bilingual education, due in part, to the U.S. Supreme Court Lau v. Nichols decision, which found that the San Francisco schools were failing to offer a meaningful education to English language learners by providing them the same materials and curricula as native English speakers. The San Francisco Unified School District SFUSD requested that the Center for Applied Linguistics send a team to work with the schools and a community advisory committee to develop a master plan to respond to the decision.

Although the Supreme Court had avoided prescribing a specific remedy, CAL's plan, which adopted bilingual education as the most appropriate response, was accepted by the appellate court and indirectly influenced the interpretation of the Lau decision by the Office for Civil Rights as requiring bilingual education under certain circumstances. Although this requirement proved controversial, CAL played a central role in the evolution of official federal policy in this arena.

Concerned about the need for dissemination of research information to the field, CAL initiated the publication of a series of papers in bilingual education in 1975 and published the first book collection of papers on Mexican American Spanish and a research bibliography of linguistic work on the language of U.S. Spanish speakers. CAL also played a significant role in the development of long-term plans for research and information dissemination, as authorized in the 1974 Title VII legislation.

CAL worked closely with the staff of the National Institute of Education in the design of the National Center for Bilingual Research, and after the contract was awarded to the Southwest Educational Research Laboratory, CAL, with its long experience in information clearinghouse activities, formulated the design for the National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education (NCBE, now known as NCELA).

When the project was designated as a minority business procurement, CAL became a partner with InterAmerica Associates, which served as prime contractor for the project. Rudolph Troike became deputy director of the Clearinghouse, and Joel Gómez became director. NCBE for a number of years served as an important central coordinating hub for cooperation and information dissemination throughout the country among various units involved in bilingual education.

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