Resolution on Bilingual Education

1999 NCTE Annual Business Meeting in Denver, Colorado


In June 1998, bilingual education in California was dealt a severe blow when voters approved Proposition 227, a statewide ballot initiative that requires children “to be taught English by being taught in English.” Fallout from this initiative is spreading rapidly beyond California’s borders to other states that are choosing either to adopt Proposition 227 in its entirety or to propose some subset of it. These propositions are especially dangerous to the future of bilingual education because they move beyond much of the existing legislation that asks, “Should bilingual education be reformed?” to legislation that asks, “Should bilingual education be eliminated?”

These ill-advised attacks come at a time in education when educational research tells us that children and adolescents who enter school as non-English speakers adjust socially and do well academically when they can understand and participate in classroom activities (Collier, V., & Thomas, W.P., 1989; de Stigter, T., 1999). In addition, the research shows that the more quality time students have to study and learn in their native language, the better they do later socially and academically in classes taught entirely in English (Cummins, J., 1991; Krashen, in press). From a more far-reaching perspective, our commitment to bilingual education speaks to the pluralist and humane society we choose to build. Be it therefore


Resolved, that the National Council of Teachers of English

  1. Encourage its members to advocate for state and national language policies that continuously examine and improve, not eliminate, bilingual education;
  2. Support the development of teacher education programs that produce competent bilingual/biliterate teachers who are well prepared to handle the moral, academic, cultural, and political aspects involved with bilingual education;
  3. Encourage and promote bilingualism and biliteracy among all teachers;
  4. Encourage and promote appreciation and respect for bilingualism and for language variations and differences;
  5. Disseminate research on effective bilingual schools and programs;
  6. Create ways to feature effective bilingual schools; and
  7. Work constructively on the above resolutions with other organizations concerned with bilingual education.

This position statement may be printed, copied, and disseminated without permission from NCTE.