With Hispanics making up more than fifty percent of the language minority population of the United States (cited in Winster, Diaz, Espinosa, & Rodriguez, 1999), Spanish remains the most prevalent target language in U. S. bilingual programs Christian, 1996). There are more than thirty million language minority individuals that reside in the United States, with an estimated projection of forty million by the end of the century (Fitzgerald, 1993). Christian (1996) indicates that there is a growing concern for the target language maintenance and development.
With English being as powerful and ominant as it is, the minority language is fighting for its very survival especially with adolescent students. The students must negotiate between their bilingual system and other complex systems such as peer interactions, self-esteem, and the education system itself as a whole to keep the minority language alive (Soto, 1992). Societal attitudes towards two languages by native English speakers are attributed to the lack of progress in Spanish (Graham & Brown, 1996). The debate about the benefits of bilingual education in the United States has continued for more than twenty years
During this time the focus has been to help those students identified as being L. E. P. or limited in English proficiency by obtaining the best programs that will help them succeed in school (Medina & Escamilla, 1994 ). One of the major sources of controversy in the field of bilingual education is when to move students into English-language instruction ( Gersten & Woodward, 1995 ), and which types of programs with which types of children are most effective in facilitating English language acquisition and/or native language maintenance (August & Hakusta, 1997; Garcia et al, 1995; Hakusta & Gould. 987; cited n Winster. Diaz. Espinosa. & Rodriguez. 1999).
Two-way bilingual programs The earliest two-way programs began in the 1960’s and 1970’s. “Immersion programs were a radical educational experiment when they were first introduced” (Genesse, 1994). It has only been over the past decade that there has been greater interest in the two-way immersion model. The increasing interest in the two-way immersion model is most likely due to the convergence of bilingual education research. It has indicated that extended native language development has positive educational outcomes for language minority students.
Research on the most effective forms of bilingual education (usually in terms of English achievement) suggests that two-way programs may be the best. Two-way bilingual education has been described in a National study as “the program with the highest long-term academic success” (Thomas & Collier, 1997, p. 52). “Two-way bilingual education programs show strong potential for high academic achievement by lessening social distance and unequal social status relations between majority and minority language students”(Gonzalez & Maez. 95).
The students’ success in these programs is undoubtedly due to a number of factors. These include opportunities for linguistic minority students to assume strong peer leadership roles in the classroom, an emphasis on grade- level academic instruction in both languages, sustained support for and use of multicultural curricula, and opportunities for non-English-speaking parents to form close partnerships with the school staff as well as with other parents
Students are learning through two languages in programs that aim to develop dual language proficiency along with academic achievement. Because the two-way model promotes and language minority students in the same classroom, it has begun to receive attention of the national. state. and local levels as an effective way to educate language minority and majority students Lindholm, 1992; Christian, 1996).