Chapter 10: The Case Studies Project
By James Crawford
A Theoretical Framework
Developing the Native Language
Designing a Curriculum
Adapting the Model
Flexibility vs. Leadership
Eastman Replication Project
Bilingual education existed on a tiny scale in the United States before the Title VII program was created. In 1969, the first year of federal funding, there were a few hundred experienced teachers nationwide, virtually no native-language materials, and only limited models for curriculum and methodology. After a 50-year hiatus, bilingual education was starting again virtually from scratch. “Imagine trying to construct an impressive, majestic brick cathedral without bricks or mortar, with inexperienced workers and very limited resources for training them,” writes María Medina Swanson, an early president of the National Association for Bilingual Education. “Yet that is how most bilingual programs got off the ground.”
It was another decade, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Lau v. Nichols decision (1974) and the federal government’s aggressive civil-rights enforcement, before most school districts got around to trying the idea. Inevitably, with a limited research base on which to build, there was much trial and error in the design of bilingual programs, and overnight successes were rare. It was a disorderly, uneven process. Still, there was no other way for practitioners to amass experience or researchers to test hypotheses.
Bilingual educators were outraged in 1978 by Title VII’s mediocre report card from the American Institutes for Research (AIR). With its crude methodology, the study lumped together the good with the bad, the failures with the successes. It obscured the growing number of schools in which formerly LEP children were beginning to score at or near national norms for the first time.
Yet AIR’s critics had to admit that serious shortcomings continued to plague many bilingual programs. Some were bilingual in name only, making limited use of LEP students’ native language because qualified teachers were in short supply. Other schools favored instruction primarily in English because it was the language of achievement tests, or because officials felt external pressures to “mainstream” children quickly. Many programs continued to employ discredited methodologies, such as concurrent translation and grammar-based approaches to ESL. Bilingual classrooms, perceived as compensatory, were frequently ghettoized within a school or neglected by administrators, while minority languages were treated with disrespect.
English learners tended to perform poorly in such programs, which shared little in common with proven approaches to bilingual education, as identified by both basic research and evaluation research. Findings were beginning to confirm the importance of native-language development, communication-based ESL, and bicultural efforts to enhance students’ self-esteem. But this evidence was often slow to reach classroom teachers. Even where there was enthusiasm for bilingual approaches, educational theory was having a limited effect on educational practice. It was in this context that the Case Studies project began.
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