Setting the Stage

Bilingual education in the United States was pushed back into the spotlight as a direct result of the 1959 revolution in Cuba. After Fidel Castro overthrew the dictatorship and established a Communist government, many middle- and upper-class Cubans fled to the United States. A large number of these refugees settled in Florida. Well-educated but with little in the way of resources, they were assisted quite generously by the federal and state governments.

Among this assistance was ESL instruction, provided by the Dade County (Florida) Public Schools. In addition, the school district launched a “Spanish for Spanish Speakers” program. In 1963, a bilingual education program was introduced at the Coral Way Elementary School in Miami. Directed by both U.S. and Cuban educators, the program began in the first through third grades. U.S. and Cuban students received a half day of English and a half day of Spanish instruction; at lunch time and recess and during music and art classes the groups were mixed together. Within three years the district was able to report benefits for both groups of students, who were now not only bilingual but also bicultural. This was no accident: the goal of the Coral Way initiative was to promote exactly this level of fluency.

Inside Setting the Stage