Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Meeting the Needs of the Many: Need for Bilingual Teachers Growing, Becoming National Priority

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Meeting the Needs of the Many: Need for Bilingual Teachers Growing, Becoming National Priority

Article excerpt

Meeting the Needs of the Many: Need for Bilingual Teachers Growing,. Becoming National Priority

by Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

ESPANOLA, NM -- The Spanish American Normal School was chartered by a state constitutional mandate in 1909 to teach English to Spanish-speaking teachers and prepare them to work in the predominantly Latino communities in New Mexico.

That program dwindled as the institution became the comprehensive Northern New Mexico Community College (NNMCC). Today, the two-year school here, halfway between Taos and Santa Fe, is working to revive that effort to meet the critical need for bilingual teachers through efforts to expand its elementary education program to four years.

"Teachers are really needed, and that is the original basis on which the college was founded," said Jose Griego, Northern New Mexico's dean of instruction. "There is a real teacher shortage in the area of bilingual endorsement . . . we serve 10 school districts, and right now they are having to hire people from out of state."

New Mexico and other states, including California, Texas and New York, have long dealt with growing non-English-speaking populations and their educational needs. With increased immigration and migration among states, however, virtually every region of the country has experienced rapid diversification.

When a beef-packing plant opened in Garden City, IA, what had previously been a predominantly white community had an immediate influx of more than 10,000 Hispanics, according to James J. Lyons, executive director of the National Association for Bilingual Education.

"There is a burgeoning population that is literally altering the complexion of the small cities and towns in the Midwest," Lyons said.

That growth -- the U.S. Census Bureau predicts that within the next few decades there could be as many as 70 million Hispanics throughout the nation -- has led to an increased emphasis on educational programs to ease the transition of speakers of other languages to English.

The Bilingual Education Act

Congress passed The Bilingual Education Act (Title VII of the Improving America's Schools Act) last month, providing $215 million annually through the year 2000 to "assist state and local educational agencies, institutions of higher education and community-based organizations to build their capacity to establish, implement and sustain programs of instruction for children and youth of limited English proficiency."

The new version of the law emphasizes integrating services, according to Joel Gomez, director of the National Clearinghouse on Bilingual Education -- which is run by George Washington University with Title VII funding.

Under the old law, bilingual education students could not enroll in Chapter 1 (now Title 1), special education or other developmental programs. The new legislation signed by President Clinton allows flexibility in distribution of the funds.

The legislation responds to the need for trained teachers by offering grants to colleges and universities to develop or expand bilingual education programs.

Three universities -- George Mason in Virginia, San Diego State in California and the University of Colorado at Boulder -- have received funding from the Education Department's Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Language Affairs (OBEMLA) to work with other institutions to restructure their education departments and broaden bilingual training.

"The ultimate goal is to better prepare educators -- counselors, teachers, specialists and principals -- to be effective in diverse settings, in diverse student populations," said Ann I. Morrey, dean of education at San Diego State, who emphasized the need for systemic change in the way all teachers are trained.

Morrey, who directs the Multicultural Education Infusion Center funded by OBEMLA, has rallied the commitment of more than 23 institutions who have joined the consortium. About 100 others are part of a less-active group working to find solutions to their multicultural challenges. …

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