Ysleta Independent School District in El Paso, Texas, is a large school district adjoining the Mexican border. About 79 percent of the students in the district are Hispanic, and about 27 percent have limited English proficiency. In addition, about 33 percent of the students come from high-poverty areas. To promote English acquisition as well as continued development in Spanish, Ysleta School District used a program called Bilingual Cooperative Integrated Reading and Composition (BCIRC), a bilingual adaptation of an elementary reading program. Calderon, Hertz-Lazarowitz, Ivory, and Slavin (1997) describe this program at Ysleta:
"Bilingual Cooperative Integrated Reading and Composition, or BCIRC, was designed to help students succeed in reading their home language, Spanish, and then to make a successful transition to English reading. In Ysleta, as in many districts, Spanish-dominant students receive reading instruction in Spanish in kindergarten, first, and second grades. In the middle of second grade, a transitional English reading program is introduced, while instruction in Spanish reading continues. By fourth grade, students are expected to be reading and writing proficiently in English as well as Spanish. The BCIRC program was used in grades 2 and 3, the time of transition from Spanish to English in most bilingual programs." (p. 3)
The study followed a group of children using the BCIRC program through second and third grade during the school years 1990-91 and 1991-92, and also followed another group of second graders during the 1991-92 school year. In the spring of 1992, when one group had completed third grade and the other had completed second grade, standardized tests were given to the children to assess the students' progress. These tests included the Bilingual Sytax Measure, an oral assessment in English and Spanish; Texas Assessment of Academic Skills, a state-mandated criterion-referenced test of reading, writing, and mathematics (given in Spanish to Spanish-dominant students); and Norm-Referenced Assessment Program for Texas, given in reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies. Students in the BCIRC program were compared with a control group of students who were taught with traditional reading methods emphasizing round-robin oral reading and independent workbook activities.
The BCIRC program emphasized a variety of instructional practices to develop the students' social, academic, and communication skills. Teachers utilized direct instruction, integrated language arts and writing, interaction between students, and cooperative learning. Students worked in pairs to take turns reading together; they also worked in four-member, heterogeneous groups to help each other learn academic material and complete worksheets. Calderon, Hertz-Lazarowitz, Ivory, and Slavin (1997) note:
"The combined sequence of activities offered students rich language experiences that integrated speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Because the activities focused on the students' cultural backgrounds, these experiences became meaningful, relevant, and interesting to them. The interaction and practice with peers helped students develop fluency and comfort with English." (p. 5)
According to Calderon, Hertz-Lazarowitz, Ivory, and Slavin (1997), students participating in the BCIRC program also developed critical thinking skills:
"Students acquiring English (SAE) students learned how to solve problems, study together, help each other, solicit opinions, present rationales, defend, synthesize, listen to others, and ask relevant questions. After each activity, SAE students learned how to talk about their thinking strategies and how to improve for next time. The students modeled new patterns of thought when they engaged in dialogues with their teachers; then they use these patterns with their peers." (p. 6)
Assessment results indicated that students using the BCIRC program improved in Spanish and English reading performance, social skills, and self-confidence. In addition, some of these students outperformed students in regular English classes.
Calderon, Hertz-Lazarowitz, Ivory, and Slavin (1997) emphasize that the following factors are important in promoting the program's results:
For additional information, refer to Promoting Language Proficiency and Academic Achievement Through Cooperation (Calderon, 1999)