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.
the Claves curriculum website is live!
Also check out the book at Guilford Press
I am a professor in the Lynch School of Education and Human Development 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.