Albuquerque Public Schools has offered bilingual classes for years, but the district did not begin compiling data on how well limited-English students are doing until 1995.

That’s when the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights found APS was failing to meet the needs of many students who need language services.

And part of the problem, the report said, was a lack of reliable data on student performance.

Virginia Duran-Ginn, who heads APS’ bilingual programs, said the district is complying with the federal order by collecting test scores for limited-English students.

But with only two years of data compiled, she said it is far too early to draw conclusions.

“We won’t have a clear picture of things for several years,” she said.

Once information can be collected, Duran-Ginn said, APS will be able to compare standardized test scores of students in bilingual classes to those of students who learn only in English.

The data will also provide information on how long students are taking to become fluent in English.

Duran-Ginn said she is confident that students in bilingual education programs will be shown to outperform students in English-only classes.

But she also warned that students in bilingual classes may take longer to become fluent in English than students in an English-only program.

Bilingual supporters estimate it takes between seven and 10 years for the approach to teach students to be literate in two languages. The English-only model, meanwhile, is patterned to move students into regular classes in less than three years.

Duran-Ginn said the English-only approach often teaches only “social English,” with students able to keep up with classmates in conversation, but lacking the “academic English” they need to truly compete in courses like math, science and history.

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