José E. Delgado - Newark Public Library

José E. Delgado

José E. Delgado
Retired investigator for the Public Defender,
Former member of the Camden Board of Education

José E. Delgado

José Delgado was born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico and was raised in Puerto Rico, France, and the United States as a result of his father’s career in the U.S. military. It was through these multiple moves, and the difficulties he had adjusting to the language requirements in the different schools, that Mr. Delgado became interested in the issues of bilingual education. He graduated from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and began working as a counselor for the Educational Opportunity Fund at Rutgers University–Camden. Mr. Delgado noticed that he was counseling intelligent Latino students, whose lack of English language proficiency was hindering their advancement. He attributed the problem to a flawed school system and became involved with Board of Education meetings in order to address the underlying problems in the pedagogical system. In 1990, he joined the New Jersey Advisory Council on Bilingual Education and in the years since has been a tireless advocate for bilingual education, and has given testimony on the subject at the state and national level. Before retiring, Mr. Delgado worked as an investigator for the public defender.

Prepared by Elizabeth Parker, Associate Archivist.


Hear José Delgado discuss bilingual education and cognitive academic language proficiency:

“Bilingual education is about providing… the individual child with a comprehensible education. Comprehensible education cannot occur if [the language] is not comprehended… So bilingual education basically [is that] the child has to learn English… that is one of the missions of bilingual education. You’ve got to learn the language of the society that you’re in, but while you’re doing that, you have to learn the content area. You can’t just sit there for two or three years learning English, [while] everybody else is learning science, and geography, and math and you’re over here learning English. “Okay, now I know English!” Oh, you’re three years behind. “What the hell is the use of me learning English? Now I can’t pass the test, I’ll drop out, I speak English but I can’t continue my education.” So, bilingual education is basically addressing the needs of the child, based on the need of the child, which is content area instruction in a comprehensive [and] comprehensible manner while you’re learning English; and then this whole literature about how long does it take to learn cognitive academic language proficiency, C.A.L.P., which is different than the language that is needed for a social environment: C.A.L.P. Cognitive academic language proficiency is the language proficiency… that really requires a [firm] grounding in [the language] because you’re using the language to learn, not just to communicate. You’re using the language to learn, which is [using it at] a higher level than social interaction. So you may have kids that are in the playground, [and you think], “Oh, they speak English. Oh, I saw them talking [in] English, they speak English with the other kids.” So? That’s social interaction… that’s context imbedded. In other words, if you know what the subject is, sometimes you can get by. But… when the context is reduced, then you have to rely solely on [your] language ability and that’s what academics is about: relying solely on language to acquire knowledge. It takes a long time to acquire that, a long time.”

Text edited for clarity. For a full verbatim transcript of the quote, please see p. 30-31 of the complete interview transcript.

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