Debunking myths on immigrant education

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The Washington Post - Political Bookworm

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Washington is finally returning to the No Child Left Behind Act, the controversial federal funding law adopted in 2001 with bipartisan congressional support. The program’s mandates on student testing and school accountability have faced a range of criticism. For the nation’s more than 5 million immigrant children who lack proficiency in English, the mandates are particularly worrisome because they promote English-only instruction at the expense of bilingual skills. This approach, however, is based on myths about bilingualism and dual language instruction and suffers from an absence of solid research.

One of the oldest -- and now widely discredited -- arguments holds that bilingualism is potentially harmful to cognition and learning. But recent findings suggest that, in fact, bilingualism enhances mental flexibility, creative thinking, and the capacity to read social cues. It may even protect individuals from cognitive decline as they age.