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“We Only Teach in English”: An Examination of Bilingual-In-Name-Only Classrooms

Research on Preparing Inservice Teachers to Work Effectively with Emergent Bilinguals

ISBN: 978-1-78441-494-8, eISBN: 978-1-78441-493-1

Publication date: 3 February 2015


When bilingual teachers are first hired, many say they are pressured to teach material only in English (Menken, 2008). Removing instruction in a child’s native language is not likely to improve scores on English standardized tests (Rolstad, Mahoney, & Glass, 2005), and long term, English-Only instruction reduces academic success and reduces graduation rates (Iddings, Combs, & Moll, 2012). This chapter looks at bilingual classrooms in a Texas school district, through classroom observations, interviews, and a large-scale survey seeking to answer the question, what do officially bilingual classrooms look like when they operate monolingually? Results showed that administrators exerted pressure, and teachers used methods they expected not to work. Some bilingual classrooms had teachers who either could not speak Spanish, or chose not to. Because classrooms operated without the legally required amount of first-language instruction, the district’s “bilingual” programs undermined accountability data while harming emergent bilinguals. Teacher educators have not prepared bilingual teachers for the reality of anti-bilingual schools. New teachers need to know how to not only implement research-based instruction but also defend their instructional choices. Wherever lawmakers, agencies, and administrators have allowed transitional bilingual programs to become de facto monolingual, there may be a role for colleges of education to play, monitoring, assisting, and, if necessary, publicizing lack of compliance. Study findings are limited to one specific district; even in districts with similar phenomena, the manner in which a bilingual program ceases to be bilingual will vary substantially.




The work in this chapter is part of a larger study on bilingual and ESL education. I am grateful to my UT Brownsville colleagues Sandra Mercuri, María E. Díaz, Tanya Pérez, and Brenda Lyne, who worked alongside me collecting this data. I am also grateful to the people of the district, who shared their classrooms and words with us.


Austin Hinton, K. (2015), "“We Only Teach in English”: An Examination of Bilingual-In-Name-Only Classrooms", Research on Preparing Inservice Teachers to Work Effectively with Emergent Bilinguals (Advances in Research on Teaching, Vol. 24), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 265-289.



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