Category Archives: Diversity

What Happened in Your State This August?

During August, thirteen policy analysts published reports about what occurred in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia.

ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act)

Delaware: Zoi Philippakos shared the Approval of ESSA Plan for Delaware with “an ambitious and rigorous plan addressing graduation rates, ELA and math goals, and English Language Learners.”

Louisiana: Jalissa Bates also reported that Louisiana’s ESSA plan was approved.

Montana: Anna Baldwin described Montana’s ESSA Plan as relying on test scores and emphasizing graduation rates and school quality. Anna describes the disconnect over the treatment of English language learners and the bottom 5% of schools.

Ohio: In her Status Update on ESSA Implementation, Robin Holland relayed that after review by Governor Kasich, Ohio will submit its ESSA application to the US Department of Education in September.

Texas: In her ESSA Update, Teri Lesesne noted that despite stakeholders emphasizing critical thinking, raising salaries, and funding as important, the plan under review “relies on the same old, same old measures of ‘excellence,’ namely, test scores.”

Vermont: Anne Slonaker listed the additional information and revisions that the US Department of Education requested of Vermont.

Virginia: Leila Christenbury described the Accountability Plan Proposed for Struggling Virginia Schools as “far less draconian and also less prescriptive than previous Virginia-recommended school interventions.”

PreK–12

California: Laurie Stowell presented both sides of the Assembly Bill to delay middle and high school start times, concluding that if it passed, California would be the first to legislate statewide school start times.

Pennsylvania: Aileen Hower reported on the introduction of a bill to expand Pennsylvania’s Education Savings Account (ESA) program to provide funding for low-income students at private schools. She then provided a rebuttal by critics who claim that ESAs are “just vouchers by another name.” Aileen shared that Governor Tom Wolf announced a reduction in PSSA testing.

Texas: Teri Lesesne shared that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has created a new “parent portal” that provides information about the state test (STAAR) and Lexiles. She referred to Shona Rose’s blog post describing her phone call with TEA about the writing portion of STAAR. Teri also reported that school finance would wait two years until the Texas legislature convenes again.

Higher Education

California: Referring to the 2017 IES report, Carol Olson highlighted that “context (e.g., type of institution, SAT/ACT scores, age, and race) matters when it comes to remaining enrolled or graduating from programs.”

Florida: Jeffrey Kaplan delineated the struggle in Florida over Online Higher Education, with the governor wanting to expand the number of students taking virtual courses and legislators viewing such an expansion as detrimental to Florida having an “elite” higher education system.

New Mexico: Kate Mangelsdorf noted that New Mexico is “one of ten states in the country with the highest reductions in spending per student in higher education,” even though the “value . . . for students in New Mexico remains high.” She continued that Budget Cuts Affect University Writing Programs, with fewer students being served and successful initiatives being curtailed.

Both PreK–12 and Higher Education

Connecticut: In English Language Learners in Connecticut, Stephen Ferruci described the challenges that English language learners face in light of new ESSA requirements. He referenced H.B. 3865 that would have required bilingual education, but was never brought up on the floor, and a study concluding that dual-language programs are successful. He raised concerns over Connecticut loosening requirements for certification and employing the “use of the Relay Graduate School of Education, a program that fast-tracks certification . . . and . . . that has been rejected by Connecticut’s Board of Higher Education.”

New Mexico: Kate Mangelsdorf provided an Educational Equity Court Case Update regarding the lawsuit filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty claiming that ELL, Native American, and low-income students were not receiving the “educational opportunities guaranteed by the New Mexico Constitution.”

ESL, ELL, Generation 1.5—Why Are These Terms Important?

by Cathy Fleischer, Series Editor for NCTE’s Principles in Practice Imprint

The medley of words and acronyms used to describe those students who speak and write in languages other than English can be confusing to ELA teachers—especially for teachers who are not immersed in current research and practice surrounding the topic.

What is ESL? Is that different from ELL? And what do we mean by Generation 1.5 or LEP?

Why are these terms important? And why do they keep changing?

In a new strand of NCTE’s Principles in Practice Imprint, Teaching English Language Learners, the authors of the four books take the time to help those of us who feel a little confused.

They explain why they (mostly) use the term English language learner in these books and then share a collaboratively-written glossary of commonly used terms, carefully explaining what these terms mean, where the terms come from, and why how we name matters.

Read the full Statement of Terminology and Glossary below.

Cathy Fleischer’s note appeared in the September 2017 issue of The Council Chronicle as part of a focus on supporting English language learners.  Read more in that issue. 

 

Statement of Terminology and Glossary

Steven Alvarez, St. John’s University
Betsy Gilliland, University of Hawai‘i Mānoa
Christina Ortmeier-Hooper, University of New Hampshire
Melinda J. McBee Orzulak, Bradley University
Shannon Pella, California State University, Sacramento

As authors of the various books in the Teaching English Language Learners strand of the NCTE Principles in Practice (PIP) imprint, we have made a concerted effort to use consistent terminology in these volumes. All of us have thought long and hard about the ways in which we label and describe bilingual and ELL students and the programs that often provide these students with additional support. Even so, readers will notice some variation in terms used to describe students, classrooms, and teaching practices. The concern over terminology is part of a long-standing discussion and trends in the labeling of these students, as well as of the fields that conduct research on teachers and students working across languages to teach and learn English. Often the shifting among terms leads to confusion and contention for teachers, administrators, teacher educators, and policymakers.

To address this confusion and tension, we begin each book in this strand with a glossary of common terms and acronyms that are part of current discussions about meeting the needs of these students in English language arts classrooms and beyond. For many readers, the terms themselves and the ongoing shift to new terms can be alienating, the jargon dividing readers into insiders and outsiders. But often the shift in terms has a great deal to do with both policy and issues of identity for students. For example, up until the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, most educational documents referred to these students as bilingual or ESL, both of which acknowledge that English is a second language and that a student has a first language as well.

The term English language learner was adopted with NCLB and brought into our schools and the larger public discourse. In fact, in 2002 the US Department of Education renamed the Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Languages Affairs. It became the Office of English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement and Academic Achievement for Limited English Proficient Students, now identified simply as the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA). The change indicated a shift away from acknowledging students’ home languages or bilingual abilities. Close to two decades later, the term English language learner remains prominent in educational policy and in many textbooks geared toward teachers and teacher educators. Its prominence and familiarity in the literature makes it an accessible way to talk about these students. Yet, as we have heard from many students through the years, the term English language learner can also be limiting. As one student asked, “When do I stop being an English language learner and get to just be an English language user?” The term also works against efforts to acknowledge the competencies and linguistically sophisticated talents these students have as translators, bilingual speakers, and cross-cultural negotiators.

In these PIP volumes, we use the term English language learner as a way to reach out to readers who see and hear this term regularly used in their schools, in their hallways, and in other helpful books in the field. However, some of us also use the terms multilingual or bilingual in order to encourage a discussion of these young people not simply as novice English learners but as individuals with linguistic and academic competencies they have gained from bilingual/multilingual experiences and literacies.

 

Glossary

Bilingual, multilingual, or plurilingual: These terms refer to the ability to use (i.e., speak, write, and/or read) multiple languages. For many ELL-designated students in US schools, English is actually the third or fourth language they have learned, making bilingual not necessarily an accurate term.

Emergent bilingual: This term has been proposed as a more appropriate term than LEP or ELL, because it points to possibilities of developing bilingualism rather than focusing on language limits or deficiencies (García, 2009).

English as a foreign language (EFL): Refers to non-native English-speaking students who are learning English in a country where English is not the primary language.

English as an international language (EIL) or English as a lingua franca (ELF): These are terms used to refer to global conceptions of English, or English used for communication between members of various nations.

English as a second language (ESL): Readers may be most familiar with this term because it has been used as an overarching term for students, programs, and/or a field of study. Currently the term usually refers to programs of instruction (i.e., study of English in an English-speaking country); however, ESL was used in the past to refer to English language learning students.

English language learner (ELL): In keeping with the terminology used in the NCTE Position Paper on the Role of English Teachers in Educating English Language Learners (ELLs), this PIP strand employs the term ELL, which is commonly used in secondary schools as the short form of English language learner. The term refers to a complex, heterogeneous range of students who are in the process of learning English.

English learner (EL): This is the preferred term of the California Department of Education (and, increasingly, other states). California is the state with the largest number and percentage of emergent bilingual students enrolled in public schools. Over the past twenty years, California has moved from LEP to ELL and, most recently, from ELL to EL.

First language (L1) and second language (L2): L1 has been used to refer to students’ “mother tongue” or “home language” as they learn additional languages (referred to as L2).

Generation 1.5: This term, originally used in higher education, often refers to students who have been long-term residents in the United States but who were born abroad (although the term is sometimes also used to refer to US-born children of recent immigrants). The designation of 1.5 describes their feelings of being culturally between first- and second-generation immigrants; they are often fluent in spoken English but may still be working to command aspects of written English, especially academic writing. As long-term residents, these students may reject ESL as a term that has been used to refer to recent immigrants to the United States.

Limited English proficiency (LEP): This abbreviation may be used in some educational contexts to refer to a designation used by the US Department of Education. Many scholars see this as a deficit term because of its focus on subtractive language (language that implies a deficiency) under a monolingual assumption of proficiency.

Long-term English language learner (LTELL): Currently in use in some states, this term refers to K–12 students who have been enrolled in US schools for many years and continue to be stuck with the ELL designation long past the time it should take for redesignation. Like Generation 1.5 students, LTELLs may have spent most if not all of their education in US schools. For a variety of reasons, including family mobility, inconsistent educational programs, and personal reasons, they have not had opportunities to learn academic language sufficiently to pass English language proficiency tests and other measures of proficiency for redesignation (Olsen, 2010).

Mainstream: This term is increasingly antiquated due to shifting demographics in the United States. In practice, it often refers to nonremedial, nonhonors, nonsheltered classes and programs. Sometimes it is used to refer to native or monolingual English speakers as a norm; changing demographics, however, mean that schools increasingly have a majority of culturally and linguistically diverse students, so it’s been argued that a linguistically diverse classroom is the “New Mainstream” (Enright, 2011).

Monolingual: This term is used to refer to people who speak only one language, although often this label masks speakers’ fluent use of multiple dialects, or variations, of English—an issue of particular concern when working with culturally diverse students who use other varieties of English (such as Hawai‘i Pidgin or African American Vernacular) in their lives outside of school. The monolingual English label can mask these diverse students’ need to learn academic English just as much as their immigrant classmates do. Much of what this PIP strand discusses is relevant to students who utilize multiple varieties of English; teachers can support these students by acknowledging their multilingualism and helping them learn to use English for academic and other purposes.

Native or non-native English speakers (NES, NNES): Some materials contrast native English speakers (NES) with non-native English speakers (NNES). As with monolingual, the term native speaker is increasingly unclear, given how many long-term ELLs speak English fluently without a “foreign” accent and yet technically have another world language as their home or first language.

Newcomer: Some school districts have separate one-year programs for “newcomers,” or students who are newly arrived in the United States, in which students learn not just “survival” English, but also how school works in the United States. As the position statement discusses, it’s sometimes argued that newcomer programs benefit “low-level literacy immigrant students” and/or students with interrupted formal education who may have limited literacy in their first language (L1). Other newcomers may be fully literate in L1, especially by high school, and may or may not benefit from being isolated from the mainstream curriculum. For older students, the challenge is to move away from “low-level” ideas of literacy assessment that may discount the literacies of these students.

US resident or local bilingual, multilingual, or plurilingual: These terms are sometimes used to refer to students who reside in the United States (in contrast to those who are on student visas). Resident students may or may not be US citizens, others may not have permanent resident status, while still others may not have immigration documentation at all.

References

Enright, K. A. (2011). Language and literacy for a new mainstream. American Educational Research Journal, 48(1), 80–118. doi:10.3102/0002831210368989
García, O. (2009). Emergent bilinguals and TESOL: What’s in a name? TESOL Quarterly, 43(2), 322–26. doi:10.1002/j.1545-7249.2009.tb00172.x
Olsen, L. (2010). Reparable harm: Fulfilling the unkept promise of educational opportunity for California’s long term English learners. Long Beach, CA: Californians Together.

 

Building Confianza

This post was written by Trisha Collopy, a Minneapolis-based writer and editor.

When I spoke to Steven Alvarez in June, he had been watching videos of recent racist rants caught on cell  phones, most directed at people speaking Spanish in public spaces. The incidents left him shaking his head.

“In my research, I’ve never met a family of adults who didn’t want to learn English,” he said. “Parents understand the pressure” to help their kids with homework and ensure they aren’t stuck on a low-wage job track.

Alvarez is the author of a new book for NCTE, Community Literacies en Confianza: Learning from Bilingual After-School Programs, in which he discusses his work with two programs for English language learners in Kentucky: the KUL after-school club for high-school students and Valle del Bluegrass library, which offered extensive bilingual programming.

Alvarez’s own family history is a time capsule of the English-only approach and its effect on families. His father, growing up in the 1950s in Arizona near the Mexican border, had teachers who would hit him when he spoke Spanish in class. As a result, Alvarez and his siblings were raised speaking English—and Alvarez had to relearn Spanish in college.

“In my own family, we went from Spanish-dominant to English in one generation, and that’s the emerging trend,” Alvarez says.

“There are lots of arguments about why immigrants don’t learn English, but immigrants are learning English faster now than they ever have.”

“Historically it has been a three-generation process,” he says. But now the transition is happening so rapidly that immigrant parents struggle to talk to their English-only children.

“Taco Literacy”

Alvarez, who now teaches at St. John’s University in Queens, New York, and coordinates the college’s first-year writing program, has distilled his work with after-school programs to a classroom approach that leans heavily on ethnography and personal writing.

A “Taco Literacy” course he taught at the University of Kentucky took off in a big way, attracting national media attention from the Huffington Post and Univision. The upper-division writing class explored the region’s changing demographics through research into local food culture. It sent students out in the community to meet owners of food trucks and taquerias, and brought journalists, food critics, and the owner of a tortilla factory into the classroom as guest speakers.

“It was the coolest class I ever taught, mostly because students in class got to know each other,” Alvarez says. “They got to eat together, got talking about food, looking at the local community, learning about their local environment.”

The class got students out of their dorms and into the community, sometimes in Latinx neighborhoods where English was no longer the dominant language.  Students blogged and shared a common Instagram hashtag #tacoliteracy (students had individual accounts) so they could follow each other’s food adventures during the semester. They slipped between languages when learning how to order from Spanish-language menus. They talked to professional food writers about branding and social media and how a food writer got his first job at the local newspaper.

Alvarez says a similar class on local foodways could be adapted to any community. And he says this kind of ethnographic research allows students to complete lots of low-stakes writing, interviewing, field notes, and other research, and build, revise and edit that into more polished projects in English.

“The reality is that academic language is not anybody’s home language,” Alvarez adds. “It takes years to learn.”

Telling Stories, Building Community

“High-stakes standardized testing,” says Alvarez, “really fractures ways of building community.”

His work in the classroom and with after-school programs is an antidote to that, a way of bringing students and teachers back into relationship with each other.

He admits that the relationship-building takes time. In Community Literacies en Confianza, he suggests small steps teachers can take: holding parent-teacher conferences in community spaces, bringing in outside speakers, assigning students to create oral histories and ethnographies.

“The most important thing to think about is the communities that students build outside of the classroom, build around shared experiences,” he says.  Because it’s in those spaces that the real learning begins.

Read more about Alvarez’s work in the article “Building Confianza—Trust—Outside the Classroom” in the September 2017 Council Chronicle.

Read a sample chapter or order the book.

Check out Alvarez’s On Demand Web seminar: “Confidence in Community Literacies: Bilingual Writers Reading the World

Alvarez discusses his book in Community Literacies en Confianza, Part I and Community Literacies en Confianza, Part II. 

Literacy in a Digital World: International Literacy Day 2017

Each year, International Literacy Day is celebrated across the world on September 8th. The theme for this year is “Literacy in a digital world”. The goal is to look at what kind of literacy skills people need to navigate “increasingly digitally-mediated societies”. International Literacy Day is a UNESCO global event.

In preparation for International Literacy Day, NCTE recommends the following resources to help you integrate technology in instruction in ways that are meaningful and authentic.

Kristen Turner and Troy Hicks, in Connected Reading: Teaching Adolescent Readers in a Digital World, offer practical tips by highlighting classroom practices that engage students in reading and thinking with both print and digital texts, thus encouraging reading instruction that reaches all students. Also read “No Longer a Luxury: Digital Literacy Can’t Wait” from English Journal.

In Adolescents and Digital Literacies: Learning Alongside Our Students, author Sara Kajder examines ways in which teachers and students co-construct new literacies through Web 2.0 technology-infused instructional practices. See more in the sample chapter.

View the #nctechat archive “Beyond the Screen: Multimedia in the Classroom“, guest hosted by the Studies in Literacies and Multimedia Assembly of NCTE.

Lesson Plans for Developing Digital Literacies presents a set of lessons designed to help you integrate a variety of digital applications into the courses and units you’re already teaching. Read the sample chapter, “What’s on the Other Side, When You Finally Cross the Digital Divide?

Check out these resources on Digital Learning from ReadWriteThink.org.

We encourage you to visit the UNESCO website to learn more about the organization’s theme for 2017, “Literacy in a Digital World“. How will you celebrate the day?

Racism Drove Arizona’s Ban of Tucson Mexican-American Studies Program

Connecting to Community and Self Through Ethnic Studies

Last week, U.S. District Judge A. Wallace Tashima ruled that the state of Arizona violated students’ 1st and 14th Amendment constitutional rights when they outlawed the Mexican-American Studies program in Tucson, Arizona,

“because both enactment and enforcement were motivated by racial animus.”

“Additional evidence shows that defendants were pursuing these discriminatory ends in order to make political gains. Horne and Huppenthal repeatedly pointed to their efforts against the MAS program in their respective 2011 political campaigns, including in speeches and radio advertisements. The issue was a political boon to the candidates,” Tashima wrote (according to Tuscon.com).

At one point, John Huppenthal, a defendant in the case with Tom Horne, and both Arizona State Superintendents, wrote in his blog,

“No Spanish radio stations, no Spanish billboards, no Spanish TV stations, no Spanish newspapers. This is America, speak English.”

and

“The rejection of American values and the embracement of Mexico in La Raza classrooms is the rejection of success and the embracement of failure.”

This victory in court has been a long time coming. Teachers and students have been in and out of the courts since 2012, and NCTE has supported their efforts beginning when we signed on a statement protesting the dismantling of the program and the banning of the books in it.

The judge does still need to issue a final judgement in the case.