Research from The Educational Forum: School Leadership, Dual Language, and Social Justice

DeMatthews_photoToday’s blogger is Dr. David DeMatthews, Assistant Professor in the Educational Leadership and Foundations Department at The University of Texas at El Paso. He writes here to describe research recently published in an article (coauthored by Dr. Elena Izquierdo) in The Educational Forum.

Emergent bilingual children in U.S. public schools are one of the fastest growing student groups and make up almost 10% of total enrollment.Many Latina/o emergent bilinguals underperform academically when compared with their native English–speaking peers.

False narratives describe the success of past generations’ immigrant groups learning English through full immersion, but research has consistently indicated that dual language education improves cognitive and academic functioning and closes the academic achievement gap. Researchers have also found that dual language promotes healthy multigenerational, multicultural, and multilingual communities.

While some states like Arizona, California, and Massachusetts have outlawed dual language for emergent bilinguals, many districts and schools with growing proportions of Latina/o emergent bilingual students are turning to dual to increase student achievement and foster a school and community culture that values diversity and inclusion.

Although the benefits of dual language are undeniable, school leaders and teachers often confront serious challenges when attempting to develop and implement dual language.

Few teachers or principals learn about language acquisition, bilingualism, or biliteracy in their preparation programs. In our article, “School Leadership and Dual Language: A Social Justice Approach,” we highlight the important role of school leadership in promoting and implementing dual language education.

Readers of this blog may be familiar with some of the effective leadership and teacher practices that support inclusive and bilingual classrooms. For example, dual language often requires effective co-teaching and co-planning, which means principals must provide teachers with opportunities to collaborate, while teachers must have the prerequisite professional skills to engage in collaborative and inquiry-based activities.

However, developing and implementing dual language education is not simply about technical or professional skills.

We argue that school leaders and teachers must take a social justice approach to creating dual language education. All stakeholders should be involved and have meaningful input into decisions that affect how resources and learning experiences are distributed across a school and how student and family cultural and linguistic backgrounds are valued in curricula.

In our article, we present five steps to facilitate a thought process of how to move a school from a segregated pullout English immersion program to dual language education:

  • Lay foundations by valuing all stakeholders.
  • Explore perspectives to engage key stakeholders.
  • Assess the context and plan the program.
  • Recruit and build capacity.
  • Monitor, evaluate, and renew the program.

Although in practice each of these five steps must be continuous and occur simultaneously, we believe they provide a broad framework for how school and teacher leaders can think about dual language education, create a culture of collaboration, and foster an inclusive environment in which all stakeholders share in decisions, trust and support one another, and remain reflective and willing to grow.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Dr. DeMatthews and Dr. Izquierdo’s article free with the education community through July 31, 2016. Read the full article here.

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