Beginning in September of 2014, the teacher education program at Boston College's (BC) Lynch School of Education will begin a pilot of a dual-language certification program. Reported in the BC Chronicle today, I hope this gets some play outside BC circles. The Teaching Dual Language Learners (TDLL) certificate will be offered initially to incoming elementary education masters students who possess dual language proficiency in Spanish and English. In addition to completing targeted coursework on bilingualism, biliteracy, and dual-language education, TDLL students will complete placements in partner dual-language immersion programs in the greater Boston area.
Nice post, with a good video link, that revisits the human 'language instinct', and asks us to consider whether and how language develops when linguistic exposure is absent. The case of deaf children in Nicaragua developing their own linguistic system from limited language input provides good context to consider that "although children require a certain amount of linguistic input at a young age in order to learn language, they're capable of generalizing from incomplete information to something far richer and more complex".
Melissa Pandika at ozy.com writes a compelling article profiling Helen Tager-Flusberg and the influence she's had exploring the linguistic dimensions of autism, particularly in children. While the article spends time lauding the achievements of Tager-Flusberg as an unconventional autism researcher and, arguably, a feminist crusader in the male-dominated world of psychological research, the focus is squarely on the contributions of Tager-Flusberg in exploring the nature of language, its social functions, and its development as it relates to autism spectrum disorders.
NBC News Latino has a nice portrait on Duncan Tonatiuh, a dual citizen of Mexico and the US, who is a children's book author and illustrator committed to writing books that have a social and political message. He is influenced artistically by Mixtec art and orthography (Mixtec codex) and appears to have deep respect for children, which is refreshing. In the the interview, Tonatiuh remarks, "I think kids are extremely intelligent. But I think that sometimes we don't give them the credit they deserve....Hopefully my books help Latino children realize that their stories and their voices are important." The link includes some images from his books, which are indeed beautiful to look at.
In Massachusetts, HB479/SB225, a bill designed to increase district flexibility in programming for English learners, has died in committee, having been recommended for further study. The reasoning for the decision follows:
The recommendation for further study was made for the following reasons:
1. As a result of a U.S. Department of Justice investigation, the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) agreed to ensure that all teachers in the state receive appropriate training in sheltered English immersion. The state has invested close to $5,000,000 to date to train the first cohort of teachers to receive SEI endorsement through RETELL, and we have begun to see improved performance in English language learners (ELLs). For example, under state receivership, the Lawrence Public Schools have chosen to exclusively implement sheltered English immersion, and have seen improvements in their ELLs’ MCAS scores in English language arts, mathematics and science;
2. Level 4 and 5 schools have had the option since 2010, to implement alternative English language learner programs, such as dual language and transitional bilingual education. However, the overwhelming majority of those schools have chosen to continue to use sheltered English immersion for their ELLs who are showing signs of improvement while a Level 4 school that introduced a dual language program has had very poor results. In fact, the state has decided to eliminate that program for a number of reasons, one of which includes clear deficiencies in student performance and achievement;
3. School districts across the Commonwealth are in the process of implementing many new programs and practices, e.g. the Common Core Curriculum standards, new teacher and administrator supervision and evaluation requirements and the PARCC assessments. Consequently, many districts are struggling to meet these new responsibilities, and any additional changes would not be well received.
The bottom line was that the committee, with input from stakeholders, believe that "improved efforts are underway that will ensure all teachers receive appropriate training, that the state has invested millions on that training, that we are seeing improved performance in the students served by SEI programs, and that districts are in the process of implementing many new initiatives, this is not the right time to enact such legislation. Moreover, the fact that our lowest performing schools already have the flexibility to use programs other than SEI for their ELLs, but the vast majority has chosen not to do so, suggests that there is little demand for change."
It's sad, but clearly the political will in the state is limited at best. The push needs to shift away from changing the law, to promoting bilingual programs currently allowed within the law, specifically dual-language immersion programs.
Local Boston Radio show, Here and Now, recently ran a story on the benefits of language immersion, holding up a program in Anthem, AZ as a model. Children in this Phoenix suburb are immersed in a 1-way Mandarin immersion program, and score equally well on standardized test scores as their non-Mandarin-immersed peers. District officials are interviewed, touting the benefits of learning more than one language. Meanwhile, in Phoenix and elsewhere across Arizona, scores of native Spanish speakers are prohibited from being able to learn in two languages because the anti-bilingual education law is actively enforced. This phenomenon, of who gets to be bilingual and biliterate through schooling, and who doesn't, underscores the realities of discrimination and xenophobia in public education. According to recent census numbers, the population of Anthem is 89.7% White and 2.6% Asian. If Anthem, Arizona were home to a huge influx of Chinese immigrants, what is the likelihood that this Mandarin immersion program would survive?
IES has released a revision to its 2007 practice guide for English learners that takes into account the relative proliferation of research that has been published since 2007. The panel (on which I served) makes 4 recommendations, accompanied by specific "how-to's" that are characterized by instructional examples. The recommendations are as follows:
1. Teach a set of academic vocabulary words intensively across several days using a variety of instructional activities;
2. Integrate oral and written English language instruction into content-area teaching;
3. Provide regular, structured opportunities to develop written language skills; and
4. Provide small-group instructional intervention to students struggling in areas of literacy and English language development
The recommendations are rather broad, and are constrained to the extent that the panel was only able to consult findings from studies that conformed to standards for experimental, or quasi-experimental, research set by the What Works Clearinghouse. So there is much more research out there that might help fill out these recommendations (or add to them) that was not included in the report. Still, the focus is squarely on the role of language, paying strong attention to the need to ELs to have opportunities to USE language in spoken and written form and not just listen to it. The guide is freely available here.
For bilingual education nerds! Oral history project of first Spanish-English bilingual program in the U.S.
Coral Way Bilingual Elementary School in Miami is considered the nation's first Spanish-English dual-language immersion program. Its unique history is intricately linked with Cuba's revolutionary past, as the first children to enroll in the program had left the island following Fidel Castro's rise to power.
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Coral Way (1963 - 1964 to 2013 - 2014), check out Richard Ruiz and Beth DeFarber's collection of interviews with teachers and students from the original class of 1963-1964. They have also compiled some interesting artifacts and photographs for this continuing project, which will grow over time. The collection includes: Primary source documents (26 items); an oral history collection (14 items); and photographs and memorobilia (104 items). The project is completely open access through the University of Arizona library website and can be accessed here. Worth checking out!
Like California, steam seems to be gathering for district flexibility in determining best approaches for educating English learning children across Massachusetts, a state that, through ballot initiative, adopted an English-only approach to educating English learners. This op-ed, published in the Boston Globe, is the most recent push by education, policy, and legal advocates in Massachusetts to move the state away from rigid English-only policies that have decimated bilingual programs statewide. The argument is not that bilingual education is better than monolingual education, but rather that it should not be ILLEGAL to teach children to read and write in a language other than English, and that districts should have a say in how they address the unique challenges and strengths that English learners bring to their schools.
The LATimes has been reporting recently on the efforts of state senator Ricardo Lara to introduce SB1174, a bill which would restore to districts in California the option to provide bilingual education programs to the students whom they serve. The effort is supported by the California Association of Bilingual Education and Californians together, which is "a coalition of parents, teachers, education advocates and civil rights groups". The issue is entering the public debate, as the LATimes continues its somewhat thin reporting on the issue. Similar efforts have flickered in Massachusetts, which shares a similar law to that of California, but nothing that rises to the level of reporting that the current California initiative is receiving. Maybe this will help Massachusetts lawmakers muster greater political will to restore program flexibility on t