History of ESL/Bilingual Education in the U.S. Timeline


No Uniform Language Policies


Many immigrants were arriving to the U.S. and with that many different languages. There was no uniform language policy, Bilingual education was likely to be accepted in areas where language-minority groups had influence and to be rejected where the had none.

APA's Proposal Mandate

Approx. 1889

Wisconsin and Illinois enacted the APA's proposal to mandate English as the sole language of instruction in all schools, public and private.

Sink or Swim

1920 - 1960

English immersion or "sink-or-swim" policies are the dominant method of instruction of language minority students. Few or no remedial services are available, and students are generally held at the same grade level until enough English is mastered to advance in subject areas.

Meyer v. Nebraska


In Meyer v. Nebraska, U.S. Supreme court strikes down laws that strikes down laws that restrict the teaching of foreign languages.

English As A Second Language Developed

1930 - 1939

ESL, a methodology developed in the 1930s to meet the needs of foreign diplomats and university students, was now prescribed for language-minority children.

Bilingual Instruction Eradicated

Approx. 1930

Bilingual Instruction continued in some parochial schools and few public ones, mainly in rural areas of the midwest,but by late 1930s it was virtually eradicated throughout the U.S..

Brown v. Board of Education


U.S. Supreme Court ruled that school segregation based on race was unconstitutional. Although it did not specifically mention Hispanics or other ethnic minorities, the ruling stated that it applied also to others similarly situated.

Rebirth of Bilingual Education


Cuban immigrants fleeing their country, requested bilingual schooling for their children. First program was open to both English and Spanish speakers at Coral Way Elementary School

Title VI of Civil Rights Act


Set minimum standard for education on any student by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin of federally assisted program NCELA

Bilingual Education Act


The Bilingual Education Act, Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1968: Establishes federal policy for bilingual education for economically disadvantaged language minority students, allocates funds for innovative programs, and recognizes the unique educational disadvantages faced by non-English speaking students.

Serna v. Portales Municipal Schools


Federal appeals court in Serna v. Portales Municipal Schools upholds a "right to bilingual education" for Mexican American children.he 10th Circuit Court of Appeals found that Spanish surnamed students' achievement levels were below those of their Anglo counterparts. The court ordered Portales Municipal Schools to implement a bilingual/bicultural curriculum, revise procedures for assessing achievement, and hire bilingual school personnel.

Lau v. Nichols


Supreme Court ruled: There is no equality of treatment merely by providing students with the same facilities, textbooks, teachers and curriculum for students who do not understand English are effectively foreclosed from any meaningful education. Because of this Congress passes Equal Educational Opportunities Act, making the Lau decision part of the U.S. Code.

Rios v. Reed


he Federal District Court for the Eastern District of New York found that the Pastchogue-Medford School District's transitional bilingual program was basically a course in English and that students were denied an equal educational opportunity by not receiving academic instruction in Spanish. The court wrote: "A denial of educational opportunities to a child in the first years of schooling is not justified by demonstrating that the educational program employed will teach the child English sooner than a program comprised of more extensive Spanish instruction."

Baker-de Kanter Report


U.S. Department of Education leaker Baker-de Kanter report questioning the effectiveness of transitional bilingual education.

Castaneda v. Pickard


Reputed to be the most significant court decision affecting language minority students after Lau. In responding to the plaintiffs' claim that Raymondville, Texas Independent School District's language remediation programs violated the Equal Educational Opportunities Act (EEOA) of 1974, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals formulated a set of basic standards to determine school district compliance with EEOA.
The "Castañeda test" includes the following criteria:
Theory: The school must pursue a program based on an educational theory recognized as sound or, at least, as a legitimate experimental strategy
Practice: The school must actually implement the program with instructional practices, resources, and personnel necessary to transfer theory to reality
Results: The school must not persist in a program that fails to produce results.

Gomez v. Illinois


The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that State Education Agencies are also required under EEOA to ensure that language minority student's educational needs are met.

Title VII


Comprehensive educational reforms entail reconfiguration of Title VII programs. New provisions reinforce professional development programs, increase attention to language maintenance and foreign language instruction, improve research and evaluation at state and local level, supply additional funds for immigrant education, and allow participation of some private school students.

No Child Left Behind Act

2001 - Present

No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB): The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 appropriates funds to states to improve the education of limited English proficient students by assisting children to learn English and meet challenging state academic content and student academic achievement standards. Legislation for limited English proficient students is found under Title III of NCLB.