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Teaching and Learning in Two Languages: Bilingualism and Schooling in the United States

reviewed by Sharon Ulanoff - 2006

coverTitle: Teaching and Learning in Two Languages: Bilingualism and Schooling in the United States
Author(s): Eugene E. García
Publisher: Teachers College Press, New York
ISBN: 0807745367, Pages: 216, Year: 2005
Search for book at Amazon.com

Since the 1980s, research has demonstrated successful academic achievement for English language learners (ELLs) who have had the benefit of properly implemented bilingual programs (Collier and Thomas, 1998; Krashen and Biber, 1988; Ramírez, 1992; Willig, 1985). Dr. Eugene E. García, long recognized as an expert in the fields of multicultural and bilingual education, has written a comprehensive book that examines the relationship between bilingualism and schooling in the US. This book is a welcome addition to the literature on effective bilingual education practices in that it is situated in a sociopolitical context and, as the author states “…confronts the educational debate regarding effective instructional practices for bilingual students but does not avoid the political and ideological debates around issues like bilingual education, English First, immigration, and assimilation….” (p. xxxi). In this era of increasing diversity among school-age children within the context of anti-immigrant and anti-bilingual attitudes and legislation (García and Curry-Rodriguez, 2000) it is critical to look at effective practices that increase ELLs’ access to success in school.

Teaching and Learning in Two Languages: Bilingualism and Schooling in the United States consists of 8 chapters plus a preface. The book begins by describing the students enrolled in bilingual programs throughout the country and includes descriptions of changing demographics in the US. The author argues that is important to view diversity as a resource rather than a problem and proceeds to use US census data to delineate the different linguistic groups present in today’s classrooms. He rounds out the chapter with a discussion of immigrants and the programs that serve them within an historical context.

Chapter 2 explores the existing research in the field of bilingualism.  Dr. García argues that there has been little systematic research about children who acquire two languages simultaneously. This chapter first explores linguistic development, including language choice, code-switching and the relationship between first and second language acquisition. It continues by examining language acquisition within the framework of sociocultural theory, also exploring relationships between bilingualism and cognitive attributes. The chapter concludes with a short description of studies on how language is used within specific social contexts.

Chapter 3, which deals with the nature of schooling for bilingual students in the US, begins with a series of myths and counterarguments regarding the education of ELLs. The author debunks these myths with explanations based on current research in the field. He then goes on to describe the components of effective programs for ELLs. The chapter ends with a discussion of the development of academic English and the relationship between what students need to be able to do with language in order to succeed in school and what teachers need to do to help their students succeed, including exposing them to academic English, providing direct instruction and using multiple assessments.

Chapter 4 explores issues of language variety together with the sociocultural and sociopolitical influences on the use of dialects. The author argues that dialects often serve as links to the speakers’ communities (p. 66) that are sometimes disconnected from the standard English used in classrooms. While educators might view the use of dialects and phenomena such as code-switching as negative in terms of schooling, it is important to appreciate such variation as “…linguistic capital that can be used to achieve the goals of the schooling process—one of which is to teach a common standard of English” (p. 69). This chapter further touches on language loss and revitalization and issues related to the instruction of bilingual/bicultural deaf students.

It is impossible to look at bilingual education without contextualizing its past and present in terms of state and federal policies related to language use in school. In chapter 5, Dr. García describes decisions made by the federal and state courts, from the Lau v. Nichols decision in 1974 through English-only state policies based on state-wide initiatives passed in California, Arizona and Massachusetts in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This chapter, which comes from a perspective of ELLs’ language rights, further describes changes in instructional services for ELLs and the evolution of Title VII, the Bilingual Education Act of 1968, from its beginnings until its demise in 2002 under No Child Left Behind.

Chapters 6 and 7 tackle the subject of educational reform in terms of services for bilingual students. Chapter 6 examines instructional programs including the use of responsive learning communities within the context of a design study of the reform of standards-based writing instruction for culturally and linguistically diverse students conducted in northern California. Chapter 7 describes the findings of the design study that demonstrate the impact of such reform on the academic achievement of students in the study sites and also how reform impacted the teachers’ work. The author illustrates the findings with student work samples as well as standardized test results and includes a discussion on the teachers’ perceptions of practice in the wake of reform. The findings, as well as the notion of a “bilingual responsive learning community” (p. 145) have implications for schools and districts working to meet the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse students.

Near the beginning of the final chapter Dr. García states, “ Children come to school with a complex set of histories as members of diverse families and communities (García, 2001), including distinct and diverse histories of literacy…. Too often, however we deny them, and ourselves, the benefit of the diverse language/literacies” (p. 157).  He then discusses the nature of language as a cultural system and its relationship to schooling. The chapter further explores policy considerations in relation to bilingual education and immigration reform and the implications of such reform for practice.


Teaching and Learning in Two Languages: Bilingualism and Schooling in the United States is a valuable resource for teachers, administrators and researchers who work with culturally and linguistically diverse students. The strength of this text lies in the way that it explores issues of effective educational reform and practice for ELLs from theoretical, historical, and instructional perspectives and effectively demonstrates a path to implementing successful programs. This book is an excellent text for a graduate class in teacher education, bilingual and/or multicultural education. It will serve not only to provide students with background knowledge related to the practices and policies that impact instructional experiences for ELLs, but also to provoke powerful discussions regarding the role of policy and reform.


Collier, V. P. and Thomas, W. P. (1988).  Acquisition of cognitive-academic second language proficiency: A six-year study.  Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA.

García, E. (2001). Hispanic education in the United States: Raíces y alas. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littfield.

García, E. E. and Curry-Rodriguez, J. E. (2000). The education of limited English proficient students in California schools: An assessment of the influence of Proposition 227 on selected districts and schools. Bilingual Research Journal, 24 (1&2.), 1-21.

Krashen, S. D. and Biber, D. (1988).  On course: Bilingual education’s success in California.  Sacramento, CA: CABE.

Ramirez, D. (1992). Executive summary. Bilingual Research Journal, 16 (1&2), 1-62.

Willig, A. C. (1985).  A meta-analysis of selected studies on the effectiveness of bilingual education.  Review of Educational Research, 55 (3), 269-317.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 108 Number 1, 2006, p. 26-29
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12066, Date Accessed: 10/17/2021 12:09:09 AM

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About the Author
  • Sharon Ulanoff
    California State University, Los Angeles
    E-mail Author
    SHARON H. ULANOFF is an Associate Professor of Elementary Reading and Bilingual Education in the Charter College of Education at California State University, Los Angeles, where she coordinates the Graduate Programs in Reading and teaches M.A. students and credential candidates. She is a former Bilingual teacher and has worked with bilingual students for the past 25 years. Her research interests include language and (bi)literacy development, narrative inquiry in multicultural settings, inquiry-based instruction and teacher research. She is currently conducting an ethnographic study of effective second language literacy instruction in a multi-age K-1-2 classroom. Her recent publications include “ ‘I don’t like not knowing how the world works:’ Examining Preservice Teachers’ Narrative Reflections” in Teacher Education Quarterly (2005), “Examining the Development of Reading Proficiency in Three Language Groups Using Multiple Sources” in the International Journal of Early Childhood Education (2004), “Developing Inquiry Questions: Encouraging Reflective Practice in a Language and Literacy Methods Course” in Action in Teacher Education (2004) and “Teachers as Researchers: Developing an Inquiry Ethic” in Teacher Development (2003).
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