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Bite for Bite

Texas Bilingual Education Facts

  • Texas has 700,000 students considered Limited English Proficient, nearly 16 percent of the 4.4 million enrolled in the state's public schools.
  • By 2010, the number of LEP students could reach 1 million and make up 31 percent of the total enrollment according to the Texas Coalition for Bilingual Education.
  • The achievement gap for LEP children lags behind other children by 34 to 50 points, especially in the upper grades. In fact, LEP children tend to score lower with each successive grade after leaving bilingual programs for English-only classes.
  • The attrition rate for ninth-graders in 2001-02 was 36 percent, which means more than 137,000 students dropped out or could not be accounted for when their class graduated from high school last spring, according to Intercultural Development Research Association in San Antonio.
  • In Texas, about 90 percent of LEP students are Spanish speakers, with the other coming from homes where any of more than 60 languages are spoken.

Hispanic Reading Difficulties Go Untreated

Patricia Mathes teaching
SMU’s Patricia Mathes is studying struggling readers in predominantly Hispanic schools.

A perfect storm is forming in American schools.

  • Hispanic children are the fastest growing population in the schools.
  • 72 percent do not speak English before they come to school.
  • Few methods exist to treat their learning disabilities.

A study funded by the National Institutes of Health is trying to spot and treat struggling Hispanic readers. Specially trained teachers work with small groups of children each day. The instruction matches the language spoken in the classroom. In the beginning the children scored extremely low on measures of language and reading. By the end of 1st grade, the scores rose to normal levels or higher.

“We attribute this success to early intervention,” says Patricia Mathes, director of the IRR. The students will be followed through the 3rd grade in order to examine the long-term effects of the intervention.

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