Education Is Beneficial
For Native American
by Dr. Stephen Krashen,
University of Southern California
September 18, 2000
Consider the results of two
important studies: Bacon, Kidd and Seaberg (1982) examined the eighth
grade reading achievement and math scores of three groups of Cherokee
children in Oklahoma: One group had had five years of bilingual
(Cherokee-English) education, which included initial literacy
development in Cherokee, another had four years of bilingual education,
and a third group had no bilingual education.
Test scores in grade 8
controlled for educational aptitude, age, gender, pass-fail record, GPA,
father's educational level, speaker of Cherokee.
|5 yrs BE
|4 yrs BE
Without question, children in
bilingual education showed no deficit. There were no differences between
children in the four and five year bilingual group in reading or math,
both groups did as well as or better than the comparison group in
reading, depending on whether raw or adjusted scores are used, and both
bilingual groups did better than the all-English group in mathematics,
regardless of the scoring method.
Although not reported here, as
far as learning Native American languages those students in bilingual
education had a proficiency far beyond those without bilingual
education. It is very important to note that Native Americans greatly
desire that their children learn BOTH English and their Native language.
Rosier and Farella (1976) and
Vorih and Rosier (1978) reported that children in an Navaho-English
bilingual program at the Rock Point school had better attainment in
English when compared to English-only schools on the Navaho reservation,
and did better than previous cohorts at Rock Point who did not have
bilingual education.The study did not utilize random assignment or
attempt to control for pre-test differences. (Note that Bacon et. al.
did control for a number of background factors; see their "adjusted"
scores). Roiser and Farella, in fact, note that Rock Point averages had
been higher than those in the other area schools since 1963-64. They
were still, however, two years below national norms.
Nevertheless, the Rock Point
scores are impressive. Fifth graders in Rock Point who had bilingual
education scored 5.0 in 1975 and 5.4 in 1976, compared to previous
cohorts' 3.9 and 3.8. Sixth graders in 1976 scored 6.6 in reading
comprehension, compared to a previous cohort's 4.7. Clearly, something
good was happening at Rock Point.
These studies are not
methodologically perfect (but few are): Bacon et.al. used a small
sample, and the Rock Point study did not control for previous
differences. Nevertheless, it is clear that students in the bilingual
programs did quite well, when compared to all-English students. For more
details on Rock Point, see Jon Reyher's paper:
In Arizona Proposition 203
calls for the elimination of bilingual education, with little chance of
reviving it - reversing 203 would require a 3/4 vote of both houses of
the state government, a "super majority. Such a drastic step requires
strong evidence of guilt. The results of studies done with native
americans show, however, that bilingual education is not only harmless,
it is, most likely, beneficial for learning English; and for learning
Native American languages, it is obvious that, it far surpasses an
education without bilingual education.
Research done on bilingual
programs with speakers of other languages have arrived at similar
conclusions (Willig, 1985; Krashen, 1996; Greene, 1997; for a survey of
studies done in Arizona, see Krashen, Park and Seldin, 2000).
Bacon, H., Kidd, G., and Seaborg,
J. 1982. The effectiveness of bilingual instruction with Cherokee Indian
students. Journal of American Indian Education 21(2): 34-43.
Greene, J. 1997. A
meta-analysis of the Rossell and Baker review of bilingual education
research. Bilingual Research Journal. 21(2,3): 103-122.
Krashen, S. 1996. Under
Attack: The Case Against against Bilingual Education. Culver City, CA:
Language Education Associates
Rosier, P. and M. Farella.
1976. Bilngual education at Rock Point - some early results. TESOL
Quarterly 10: 379-388.
Vorih, L. and Rosier,P. 1978.
Rock Point Community School: An example of a Navajo-English bilingual
elmentary school program. TESOL Quarterly 12: 263-269.
Willig, A. 1985. A
meta-analysis of selected studies on the effectiveness of bilingual
education. review of Educational Research 55: 269-316.