There are many issues that are making the rounds in the Pre-K–12 world during 2015. As a former K–6 ESL teacher and professional development provider, I would like to share four wishes that I have for 2016.
1. I wish to see every state promote bilingualism and recognize the value of learning another language through the adoption of a Seal of Biliteracy program.
A Seal of Biliteracy is an award that authenticates and encourages students to attain a high level mastery in two or more languages. Once a student meets the criteria, a Seal is affixed to his or her high school diploma. In some states, this movement has been initiated by state government, and in others it is a grass-roots effort. ESL organizations have joined the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) to promote this program because it promotes educational equity for ELLs. Here is more information on this movement from Colorín Colorado. My wish for 2016 is an increase in the number of states that provide the Seal of Biliteracy to high school graduates.
2. In 2016, I want to celebrate the support of English learners under the newly passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
ESSA allows a great deal of flexibility to states to develop their own goals. These goals must include proficiency on tests, English language proficiency, and graduation rates. All of these goals influence the way English learners are taught. States need to provide professional development for teachers of ELs, deemphasize the importance of high-stakes testing, and not report the test scores of newly-arrived immigrants. I hope we will be able to celebrate the way individual states craft their goals during 2016. TESOL supports ESSA, though in their statement they list several areas that were not adequately addressed. Read TESOL’s statement.
3. I hope that we see an increase in the number of dual language learners (DLLs) enrolled in high-quality preschool programs.
English learners are called dual language learners on the preschool level. I interviewed Karen Nemeth, a nationally recognized expert on DLLs in preschool, for this blog. Karen cited a policy report that came out in 2014 from the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO). According to Nemeth, this report, entitled “Access to High Quality Early Care and Education: Readiness and Opportunity Gaps in America,” summarizes research showing that high quality early education helps young ELLs make significant gains in school readiness, and in ongoing school success. According to Nemeth, children of ELL families are much less likely to be enrolled in high quality preschool than English-speaking children in most states. For more information, read Nemeth’s blog “How investments in low-quality pre-K affect DLLs.”
4. I wish to see the United States adopt a humane solution to policies regarding Syrian immigration in 2016.
Syrian refugees are not arriving via boat or land to the United States, nor can they fly into the country without being approved for refugee status. Only 1,854 Syrian refugees have been admitted to the United States since 2012 compared to 92,991 that have been admitted to Germany in the same time period. Refugees coming into the United States are subject to the strictest form of security screening of any class of traveler to the United States before they are allowed to enter, with extensive background, security, and health checks. ESL teachers need to be the voice of reasons in their schools and in their communities. The current sentiments on Syrian immigration do not reflect well on us as a humanitarian country. To learn more, check out this article “Paris Attacks Intensify Debate Over How Many Syrian Refugees to Allow Into the U.S.“