Lau v. Nichols

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Prior to 1974, children in the United States without previous knowledge of the English language were not always given the opportunity to learn it and were therefore deprived of an equal education, since classes in public schools were conducted in English. In 1971, the San Francisco, California, school system was integrated as a result of a federal court decree (Beyond Brown).


The situation was then addressed in Lau v. Nichols, which was instituted in 1974 as a remedy, but the decision did not specify a teaching method, and the approach could be "bilingual instruction, English as a second language (ESL) classes or some other approach" (Crawford, para. 1). This broad interpretation has caused a great deal of controversy over the years.
Lau was intended to give limited-English-proficient students (LEP) the opportunity to gain the proficiency they needed, but, unfortunately, according to Crawford, a symposium held twenty years after Lau indicates there has been little improvement in the effort to create equity for LEP students. Without one specific method of teaching LEP students, the effort becomes lost, with well-designed programs staffed by qualified teachers available to only a fraction of LEP students.
The term "bilingual education" has come to mean a "range of instructional programs for children whose native language is not English," while the best way to accommodate such children has been and continues to be an area of debate. As noted in a research project by the Westchester Institute in New York, the debate centers on the "role of native language in instruction-whether it should be used and for how long" (Westchester, para. 3). ...
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