Candelaria: It Takes 5 Years

Melissa Bailey PhotoIt takes a non-English language speaker five to seven years of bilingual education to master the language. But the state caps students’ time in bilingual ed to 30 months.

Juan Candelaria (pictured), New Haven’s only Latino state legislator, made that argument the other day to the legislature’s Education Committee in supporting a bill to increase the cap to allow students to spend 60 months in a bilingual program.

Following is state Rep. Candelaria’s testimony:

My name is Representative Juan Candelaria and I represent the 95th Assembly District in New Haven. I would like to express my strong support for S.B. 476- AN ACT CONCERNING THE ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT GAP.

As of last year 13.4% of Connecticut residents were foreign born, 17.7% were Latino or Asian, 49.4% of immigrants in the state are naturalized U.S. Citizens, 11.3% of registered voters are New Americans, and 86.2% of children with immigrant parents are U.S. citizens. In addition, in 2010 alone Connecticut’s English Language Learner (ELL) population surged 59 percent, rising to 292,562 from 184, 018. These figures only attest that as our state’s English Language Learner population grows so will the need for our state to provide more effective and cohesive Bilingual Education Programs for such population. 

National research has revealed that ELL students must receive bilingual education instruction for a period of five to seven years in order to become proficient in both English and their dominant language. A major extensive study released in 1991 by the U.S. Department of Education found that the more schools developed children’s native-language skills, the higher they scored academically over the long term in English.

Unfortunately that is not the case in Connecticut, many of our ELL students are transitioned from a Bilingual Education Program within 30 months into mainstream classes, –inhibiting their possibilities for proficiency in both linguistic and academic mastery.  The impact is worse for those ELL students that have fewer than thirty months remaining before graduation. These students are enrolled into an English as a Second Language (ESL) Program and may be provided with intensive services to enable them to speak, write and comprehend English by the time they graduate. However, the reality is that these students by no means graduate fully comprehending English, not to mention their server limitations in speaking and
writing in English. 

For these reasons, the Education Committee should consider S.B. 476’s concept of increasing the time a student may spend in a program of bilingual education from thirty months to sixty months, and provide funds within available appropriations to school districts for such increase. 

In addition, I strongly believe that in order to truly assess the linguistic and academic progress of ELL students, the State Board of Education should provide the state English mastery standards in both English and the student’s dominant language.

As the voice for our constituency, it is our duty to ensure that every child/student of Connecticut is provided with a preeminent education. By implementing this legislation, Connecticut would ensure that our states’ ELL population is provided with the necessary time to become proficient in English and have the opportunity to thrive in the United States. 

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posted by: naturaleza on March 19, 2014  3:26pm

As a New Haven high school teacher, I know firsthand that 30 months is inadequate.  I have students that have been classified as English Language Learners since 2002 (entire academic career), and they truly are.  We need a more robust, intensive program to help these students succeed.  They will struggle in all classes every year until they gain a satisfactory command of English language.  They are left with very few options after high school.

posted by: Walt on March 23, 2014  6:48pm

Do not doubt the essence of the story above,  but can’t figure why second or third generations of Poles, Italian, and Germans spoke clear English ,  despite their immigrant ancestors many times still primarily speaking their native tongues   at home,  and with no special language -training being offered.

Even the English -speaking- Irish, like my predecessors lost their heavy Irish brogue in a generation or so,’

My theory is that they adapted quickly because they could not get a decent job without   using non -accented English,  and if they had no job,  at a time when welfare , and special education training did not exist,  they were   really up-the-proverbial - creek without a paddle.

Not proposing dumping of welfare, or ESL but it looks as though my theory may have some validity.

Any one have a better idea why more recent immigrants seem not able, or unwilling to, adapt to our prevalent language?