As of last Wednesday, I have been promoted to full professor at Boston College's Lynch School of Education and Human Development. I was very please to receive the news. This is all part of the ladder structure of academia that is not my favorite thing in the world. However, I am appreciative of the support I've received from students, colleagues, friends, and family. No matter how one feels about these hierarchies in academia, it is a lot of work to go from doctoral student through to full professor. It feels good to have reached this milestone, and I am pleased that I can leverage perhaps some of this privilege to support students and colleagues in pursuit of their goals. En fin, iAdelante!
In October, 2018 I spent a week in Santiago, Chile working with a group of doctoral students from the Universidad Diego Portales and Universidad Alberto Hurtado joint doctoral program. In Chile, they are receiving their first significant waves of non-Spanish-speaking students, primarily comprised of Kreyol-speaking Haitian immigrants. I worked with them, with critical awareness of my own ignorance relative to Kreyol and Haiti, around principles of bilingualism and second language acquisition. I argued that while I could provide some theoretical and empirical insights from my own work, there must be local work that is collaborative and cognizant of the political dimensions of teaching and learning in immigration and bilingual contexts. I gave a talk to these ends, which can be viewed here. Here is the group of outstanding students with whom I was able to work for the week.
It was very gratifying and humbling to be part of the work there. The US experience with immigration, xenophobia, race, and language echoes in Chile, where US imperialism took brutal form with the suspicious death of Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973 and the Pinochet dictatorship that followed. These overlaps are profound, and the case of Haitian immigration in Chile something that deserves advocacy and documentation.
Former BC graduate, Catherine Michener, now an assistant professor at Rowan University, just published this article examining how teachers' literacy instructional talk relates to reading outcomes among multilingual learners. Findings suggest that when teachers provide explanations and follow-up on students' interests in the classroom, students' reading performance was affected. Language exposure was achieved by explicit instruction alongside positive reinforcement that encouraged student attention to various learning tasks.
Read or listen to a story about the need for establishing a pipeline of bilingual teachers in Massachusetts now that the state is poised to bring bilingual education back after 15 years of linguistic prohibition.
On November 15th, 2017, Massachusetts’s legislators voted to end 15 years of linguistic prohibition and reinstate bilingual education in our public schools. H. 4032: An Act relative to language opportunity for our kids passed by a veto-proof margin and awaits Governor Baker’s signature. If made law, this will be the first time since 2002 that Massachusetts school districts can choose whether to provide bilingual instruction for their students. As a long-time Massachusetts bilingual educator, with ties to the state, universities, schools, and school districts, I greeted this news with a combination of relief, sadness, and hope.
It is a relief that school districts will now be able to offer bilingual education if they deem it to be the best approach for their students. This means that a measure of sanity has been restored to the Commonwealth. Fifteen years of forbidding the use of heritage languages in our classrooms, however, has created a profoundly monolingual educational system, which is cause for sadness for those of us who care about social and linguistic justice.
Throughout these years, however, there has always been hope. The Framingham Public Schools have cultivated bilingualism and biliteracy through their support of Spanish- and Portuguese-language programming. In Boston, Cambridge, and Chelsea, Spanish and Mandarin programs continue to thrive despite limited resources for bilingual curricula. The Massachusetts Association for Bilingual Education hosts a school-based annual conference for bilingual educators. Researchers at area universities maintain a focus on how bilingualism can be leveraged to promote literacy achievement. Non-profit organizations promote bilingualism and biliteracy as critical for supporting school and community ties.
These stalwart bilingual educators have sustained us over these 15 years, and now we have a new hope. We are faced with a singular, paradoxical moment: the pain of 15 years of free speech repression in K – 12 education, alongside the hope of being able to start over. Here are four things that should be at the forefront of rethinking bilingual education:
The list is a start point. As of Wednesday, November 15, 2017, the English-only era in Massachusetts is over, and we have the chance to do something unique. It is time to cultivate bilingualism and biliteracy as ends in and of themselves, in the service of broader educational equity in the Commonwealth.
I just had a publication go to press at the Bilingual Research Journal - research that I did in collaboration with Jeff Harring and Rebecca Silverman at the University of Maryland. It's the culminating bilingual literacy study from our first CLAVES (Comprehension, Linguistic Awareness, and Vocabulary in English & Spanish) grant, which ran from 2009 - 2013. It is also the first study I designed from start to finish meant to build on my dissertation research investigating the role of Spanish vocabulary predicting English reading and the distal connections between Spanish oral language and English reading.
This study takes positions on theory, research, and practice in addressing linguistic interdependence among Spanish-English bilingual children in grades 2 - 5. We argue that cross-language associations are likely to vary in part as a function of the construct under study (e.g. syntax vs. lexicon), and as a function of how those constructs get operationalized, or measured.
We looked at how two Spanish language components (syntax and vocabulary knowledge) predict 5th grade English language (vocabulary, syntax, semantics, morphology) and reading. We also examined whether Spanish language predicted 2nd through 5th development in these constructs. Spanish syntax was predictive of all English outcomes in 5th grade, while Spanish vocabulary was not predictive. Spanish syntax was also associated with growth in English semantics. The point being that it does seem to matter what constructs are used and how they are operationalized from a theoretical and methodological perspective. Instructionally, these relationships are not uni-directional, and the fact that Spanish syntax predicts English has instructional implications for thinking about cross-lingustic comparisons to develop general syntactic knowledge which is an accepted component of most models of reading comprehension.
After 12 years, I am not sure if I'll be doing this kind of work in the future, so here is the .pdf if you are interested.
I just gave a talk with my colleague Samantha Daley at the American Psychological Association (title above). We addressed issues of digital technologies, literacy development, and bilingualism in the context of increasing ubiquity of digital affordances, and what that means for instruction in the elementary and middle school grades. We targeted 3 dimensions of affordances that digital technologies provide in the current era:
●Supporting learner to access text content accounting for maximum learner variability (e.g., text-to-speech, speech-to-text)
○Potential barriers: e.g., visual impairments, decoding challenges
○Leveraging existing capabilities: e.g., alternative modalities
●Getting the learner to metacognitively process language and literacy to better understand their relation to learning and comprehension (e.g., embedded vocabulary supports or comprehension strategy applications)
○Potential barriers: e.g., emergent English proficiency
○Leveraging existing knowledge: e.g., native language proficiency
●Getting the learner to internalize learning, to feel expert and engaged in the content (e.g., motivation, self-efficacy)
○Potential barriers: e.g., limited reading proficiency
○Leveraging existing knowledge: e.g., high-interests texts
Our powerpoint is here. The video will be posted soon on the APA website.
Recently the MA senate joined the House to pass legislation undoing 15 years of English-only mandate in this state. They still need to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions, but this is the closest we've come in this state to overturning what has amounted to a violation of bilingual students' linguistic rights and school districts' abilities to implelent language education policies that align with their specific needs. The law on the books now is from 2002 but draws a direct line with the kind of xenophonic and nationalistic rhetoric that defines our present day politics. It is a good thing that this might pass. It is a truly sad thing that this is not done yet (first house-senate reconciliation then Governor Baker muat sign). For more than an academic generation we have dealt with the painful implications of this law. Here's to its undoing.
As of June 2017, the Lynch School has provided 3 years of funding for us to develop the Teaching Dual Language Learners (TDLL) micro credential program. This short sequence of courses prepares elementary or reading specialist licensure candidates to teach in both monolingual and bilingual instructional settings. Click here to see current requirements for the TDLL. We have been funded to add two new courses: Foundations of Dual Language Education and Bilingual Literacy and Literature. These are being developed this summer, and are set to be brought to our Educational Policy Committee for approval in the Fall 2017. We expect to have a fully functional TDLL program, alongside a masters in multilingual education, in Fall 2018. This aligns with the (hopeful) and coming expansion of bilingual programming here in Massachusetts, per recent reporting by the Boston Globe. Stay tuned!
The research teams at University of Maryland and Boston College are finishing up the field trial of the Comprehension, Linguistic Awareness, and Vocabulary in English and Spanish (and Portuguese!), aka, CLAVES. Over 2 years our teams worked to develop a 3-unit, multi-lesson curriculum that targets language development via text reading, metalinguistic awareness, and small-group discussions. We'll be assessing implementation effects over the summer after data are collected, but here is a link to our implementation site, with a link to one of the CLAVES lesson sequences.
the Claves curriculum website is live!
Also check out the book at Guilford Press
I am an associate professor in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College, and director of the Curriculum & Instruction doctoral program. I serve as an associate editor at Child Development, Applied Psycholinguistics, and an editor at Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools. I was a bilingual teacher in Detroit, MI and have worked in district, state, and nonprofit settings. I work with bilingual learners from multilingual homes in K-8 settings, thinking about language use and development, cross-linguistic relations, instructional interventions, and teacher practice. I've published a bunch of articles and book chapters, and have developed language and reading curricula. I always work in close collaboration with teachers to facilitate the translation of research to practice.