For this Community, Bilingualism is Not a Problem. It’s an Asset.
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
How can schools and communities create an inclusive environment for English-language learners? It starts by recognizing that bilingualism is an asset to be encouraged, not a problem to be solved. That was a major takeaway from “Language of Excellence,” the100th and final GradNation Community Summit, on March 17 in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Whether in business, school, or personal life, “success is built on inclusion, not exclusion,” saidGuillermo Iveguiof MAPFRE Insurance in the Urgency of Excellence panel discussion.
More 150 people from the education, business, government, and philanthropic community attended the event, convened by theLatino Education Institute, to discuss the importance of bilingualism and cultural diversity. More than 50 youth were also in attendance to add to the discussion and share creative presentations.
The summit was part of a statewide effort to increase graduation rates for students whose first language is not English (FLNE), work that is supported by theGradNation State Activation initiative. As part of this effort, the Center for Promise will release research on the FLNE student experience in May.
In Worcester Public Schools, the high school graduation rate is 81.9 percent overall and 74.3 percent for English language-learners (ELL). Keynote speaker Margaret Burns remarked that this gap, traditionally called the achievement gap, is better termed the “opportunity gap,” since the onus to close the gap falls on communities, not on students.
In an effort to create a more inclusive environment and help bridge this gap, the Latino Education Institute supports awarding a Seal of Biliteracy to students who graduate with dual-language proficiency.
Representatives from the business and higher education sector further explored the benefits of bilingualism, remarking on its importance for the workforce and the economy. Francy Magee, dean of students at Clark University, shared how having diverse students on campus enriches life for everybody.
“Students need multicultural competency to succeed in today’s marketplace,” said Linda Looft, assistant vice president at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Bertha Rojas, manager of ELL and supplement support services at Worcester Public Schools, said it’s also important to recognize that student achievement isn’t always a reflection of intellect. “The only thing the students don’t know is English,” she said. “They have a world of thinking.”
Language is also key to understanding Worcester and the United States’ vibrant immigrant community, said Michelle Huaman, the world languages liaison at Worcester Public Schools.
“Bilingualism is more than just conjugating verbs and learning a language from a textbook,” Huaman said. “It’s about building empathy.”
The Worcester Summit supports the goal of the GradNation State Activation Initative, a collaboration between America’s Promise Alliance and Pearson to leverage statewide change. In Massachusetts, the State Activation focus area has been on supporting students whose First Language is Not English (FLNE).
The 5 Promises represent conditions children need to achieve adult success. The collective work of the Alliance involves keeping these promises to America’s youth. This article relates to the promises highlighted below:
These six platform areas are based on the collective experience and expertise of individuals at organizations engaged with young people across the country, the experience of young people themselves, and our own research. The platform areas are a statement of best practice – they are what has been demonstrated to work to improve graduation outcomes for young people.:
Last month, we publicly launched the YES Project with a panel at ASU + GSV that focused on the power of connection and how the business community, educators, policymakers, and philanthropists can help link youth to new opportunities.
Adelante Mujeres’ mission is to provide holistic education and empowerment opportunities to Latina women and their families. Part ofl this mission is to increase graduation rates of Latinos in her community.
The following grants and funding opportunities are currently accepting applicants. These grants are not offered through America's Promise Alliance, but they each relate to our Five Promises. If you have questions about these opportunities, please follow the links provided in each item.
A recent situation involving a first-grade student in the University City School District prompted teachers and administrators to consider an unconventional approach.
Rather than immediately focus on any instruction or behavior in the classroom, the district sought to provide the student and his family with basic needs – a trip to the doctor, food and toiletry items.
Tanya’s work with America’s Promise began in 2005 directing the planning and execution of professional development events designed to encourage greater focus and collaboration within communities to see that all young people receive the Five Promises.