The following chronology compiled by the Texas Education Agency offers an overview of landmark legislation and court cases impacting the education of English language learners.
Federal Policy: Timeline
1920s-1960s — 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.
1963 — Success of a two-way bilingual program for Cuban refugee children in Dade County, Florida, inspires the implementation of similar programs elsewhere.
1964 — Civil Rights Act: Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in the operation of all federally assisted programs.
The Bilingual Education Act, Title VII
1968 — 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.
1978 — Amendments to Title VII emphasize the strictly transitional nature of native language instruction, expand eligibility to students who are limited English proficient (LEP), and permit enrollment of English-speaking students in bilingual programs.
1982 — Amendments to Title VII allow for some native language maintenance, provide program funding for LEP students with special needs, support family English literacy programs, and emphasize importance of teacher training.
1988 — Amendments to Title VII include increased funding to state education agencies, expanded funding for "special alternative" programs where only English is used, established a three-year limit on participation in most Title VII, and created fellowship programs for professional training.
1994 — 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. Texas Education Agency Bilingual/ESL Unit 2011-2012 11
No Child Left Behind
2001 — 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.
Supreme Court1974 — Lau v. Nichols
This suit by Chinese parents in San Francisco leads to the ruling that identical education does not constitute equal education under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. School districts must take affirmative steps to overcome educational barriers faced by non-English speakers. This ruling established that the Office for Civil Rights, under the former Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, has the authority to establish regulations for Title VI enforcement.1982 — Plyler v. Doe
Under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the state does not have the right to deny a free public education to undocumented immigrant children.
Federal Court1971 — United States of America v. State of Texas, et al.
This desegregation case centered on the issue of discrimination and whether the San Felipe and Del Rio school districts were providing Mexican American students an equal educational opportunity. On August 6, 1971, Judge William Wayne Justice ordered the consolidation of the two districts. As a result of the lawsuit, the federal court came down with a court order, Civil Action 5281, which eliminates discrimination on grounds of race, color, or national origin in Texas public and charter schools.1974 — Serna v. Portales
The 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.1978 — Cintron v. Brentwood
The Federal District Court for the Eastern District of New York rejected the Brentwood School District's proposed bilingual program on the grounds that it would violate "Lau Guidelines" by unnecessarily segregating Spanish-speaking students from their English-speaking peers in music and art. The court also objected to the program's failure to provide for exiting students whose English language proficiency was sufficient for them to understand mainstream English instruction.1978 — Rios v. Reed
The 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."1981 — Castañeda 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.
The U.S. District Court for the eastern district of Texas, Tyler division, instructs TEA to phase in mandatory bilingual education in grades K-12. This decision outlined specific requirements including: three year monitoring cycles, identification of LEP students, and a language survey for students entering school. It also established the need for exit criteria.1982 — United States v. State of Texas et al., July 12, 1982
The U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit reverses the previous judgment of U.S. v. State of Texas et al., January 12, 1981 because of state legislation enacted in 1981.1983 — Keyes v. School District #1
A U.S. District Court found that a Denver public school district had failed to adequately implement a plan for language minority students, which is the second element of the "Castañeda Test."1987 — 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.