Native language instruction in Haitian Creole bilingual programs in New York City public schools: Policy implications

Beryl Dorsett, Fordham University


The purpose of the study is to examine the issues involving native language instruction in Haitian Creole Bilingual Programs. The objective is to find out why the academic performance of Haitian students is far below students in English programs. The data collection methods used were document analysis, observational data, and interviews. Two elementary schools were selected. Principals, teachers, parents, teacher interns, and administrators were interviewed. The study was designed to investigate teacher experiences and credentials, parents' beliefs and values, teacher leadership, professional support, and compliance with native language regulations. The major findings were: Haitian teachers learned to read Creole in America. The language of instruction was changed from French to Haitian Creole when Haitian Creole became an official language. The majority of the teachers did not prepare for careers in education. One of the six teachers possesses permanent credentials from the NYSED. Comments made by parents and to school staff reveal that parents are not supportive of Haitian Creole instruction. Parents are unclear about the purpose of a bilingual education. They want their children to learn English and to be placed in English programs. Seventy-two percent of Haitian students were born in America. Parents who cannot read Haitian Creole complain about homework and letters from school in Haitian Creole. There was no evidence to support teachers as advocates of Haitian Creole instruction. The teachers need professional support in the following ways: instruction in bilingual methodologies and literacy strategies, help with students with diverse academic abilities and a range of language proficiencies and assistance in developing native language materials. CSD X implements Maintenance Bilingual Programs. Its approach of fluency in two languages is not supported by the principals. The principals agree with Transitional Bilingual Programs governed by Commissioner's Regulations Part 154. It is designed to provide transition from instruction in ESL and the native language to instruction conducted only in English. There are no native language assessments in reading and insufficient native language instructional materials in content areas. To conclude, this study breaks new ground in the area and affords school administrators the ability to design meaningful Haitian Creole instructional programs.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Language|Bilingual education|Multicultural education

Recommended Citation

Dorsett, Beryl, "Native language instruction in Haitian Creole bilingual programs in New York City public schools: Policy implications" (1997). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9809000.