Illinois English Learners Stuck in a Broken System

In response to a 2007 report revealing rampant problems, a U.S. district judge ruled last month that 100 Chicago public school principals must complete depositions about their schools’ bilingual programs. That process is now moving forward, but the underlying cause of the problem has little to do with individual schools or educators themselves. The real troublemaker is an Illinois bilingual education law that stands in the way of progress for 200,000 English learners statewide. Illinois’ bilingual education law is an extreme measure that harms the very children it purports to help. Meanwhile, there’s a proven way to help children quickly learn the language they need to succeed academically and in the workplace: Provide them with instruction mainly in English in the earliest grades, while speaking to them in their native language only to provide explanations for difficult lessons.

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