Policy Brief

Bilingual Education

Reading, Writing & Rhetoric


Obscured in the political rhetoric is the term bilingual education. What constitutes bilingual education instruction? The various sides of the debate clutch to their anecdotal and empirical evidence that definitively proves that bilingual education is either a rousing success or a dismal failure. Estimates of the expenditures on providing special services range from not-nearly-sufficient to an extraordinary and growing burden on state and local resources.

Can both sides of the argument be correct in their assertions?

What is clear in the debate is the need to meet the special circumstances of this diverse and growing population.1 Both bilingual education proponents and opponents agree that accountability in the current system is almost nonexistent. Both sides agree that poorly implemented programs are resulting in the failure to provide a meaningful education to these students.

This policy brief provides a brief overview of:

  • the status of limited-English proficient students;
  • the nature and definition of services being administered;
  • the policies that govern how these students are served; and
  • a synopsis of research evaluating the effectiveness of special instructional services provided to LEP students with an emphasis on California.

The purpose is not a pedagogical endorsement of one form of instruction over another. Rather, the purpose is to provide an objective understanding of the issues for sound policymaking at the local, state, and federal levels, and by parents concerned about the nature of services being provided to their children.