Academic journal article NBER Reporter

Matsudaira

Academic journal article NBER Reporter

Matsudaira

Article excerpt

In recent years, the role of bilingual education as the dominant pedagogy for teaching immigrant students has been challenged by federal and state policy reforms. Critics of bilingual education contend that bilingual programs hinder achievement by reducing incentives to learn English and by trapping students in classrooms with low-performing peers. Proponents argue that learning occurs most rapidly when students master concepts in their native language first, and therefore that bilingual education programs promote achievement. To distinguish between these competing views, Matsudaira exploits quasi-random assignment of students to bilingual and mainstream (English-immersion) classes generated by discontinuous program eligibility rules in a large urban school district. In the District, eligibility for bilingual programs is determined by a test of English proficiency: students scoring below a preset threshold level are eligible for bilingual classes; students scoring above this threshold are not eligible. Using information on achievement and program participation from a large administrative dataset, Matsudaira compares students scoring just below and just above this threshold for several years following the proficiency test. …

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