Penn McNair Research Journal


The topic of bilingual education has received heightened attention over the past few decades. How to educate children with limited English skills, or English learners (EL), is a highly controversial and debatable issue that deserves attention because of the vast numbers of English learners in the United States today. ELs are students for whom English is a second language and who come from homes in which a language other than English is spoken. Currently, there are about 5.5 million ELs in U.S. public schools (U.S. Department of Education, 2004). Their numbers have been growing dramatically over the past few decades, making them one of the fastest-growing student populations in the United States (Slavin & Cheung, 2004, p. 52). For example, from 1980 to 2000 the EL population doubled from 6 percent to 12 percent in the United States (Morse, 2002). Of this population, the majority of students are Spanish speakers (79%). This makes bilingual education largely a Latino issue.