Beyond Castañeda and the “language barrier” ideology: young children and their right to bilingualism

Dina C. Castro, Shantel Meek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Forty years ago, the Castañeda v. Pickard landmark case marked an important milestone in the fight for equitable education for English learners1 in law, and for the first time linked theory, resources, and outcomes. Notwithstanding the important progress it marked in advocating for greater resources for English learners and accountability for education systems, the central goal of the Castañeda Standard, to “overcome language barriers that impede equal participation in educational programs” is fundamentally flawed. Language, in its essence, is not a barrier but a human characteristic and a strength, and knowledge of the English language, specifically, should not be the exclusive route to attain equal participation in education programs. In this article, we discuss the importance of the Castaňeda Standard and importantly, how we can build from its foundation toward more equitable learning systems, with a central focus on the early care and education system, which has thus far, been left out of formal standards and accountability for bilingual children, with some exceptions. We ground our discussion in the central tenet that improving standards must move away from the “language barrier ideology” to perceiving language as a strength to build on, and to include bilingualism and biliteracy as a central goal of learning systems, shifting away from an exclusive English learning focus. We discuss the importance of bringing a larger degree of objectivity, grounded in current science, to guide implementation. We track the same three pillars established by the Castaňeda Standard 40 years ago and further develop how these could apply to the early care and education systems that serve the youngest bilingual learners.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)407-425
Number of pages19
JournalLanguage Policy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • Bilingual children
  • Castañeda
  • Dual language learners
  • Early care and education
  • Early childhood
  • English learners
  • Language Standard

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language


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