Friday, February 05, 2010

Secretary Duncan and Assistant Secretary Melendez Address the National Association for Bilingual Education

Check out Dr. Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana's speech to the National Association for Bilingual Education.

In addition to what's mentioned in the summary below Melendez stresses the importance of biliteracy; high expectations, great teaching, and access to and success in higher education; the need for states in develop English Language Proficiency (ELP) standards; the importance of fostering leadership that understands the "diversity within the English language learner population so that they can truly tailor instruction to specific needs and strengths"; the need to monitor the progress of ELLs and those who have transitioned out of ELL-serving programs to ensure that they don't fall through the cracks; seek to turn around schools by incorporating "the best approaches for serving our bilingual students" (through appropriately trained teachers, research-based curricula, and ELL supports).

Another statement that we don't hear enough is that "In most countries, bilingualism or multilingualism is the norm — it is just expected" -- at a time when experts with a national platform are touting the success of other nations' education systems this comment by Melendez does not come up enough, if at all. We need to put this message front and center. Perhaps that will help us to begin placing value on the assets that 1 in 10 of all students bring with them as emerging bilingual (and multilingual) youth.


On February 3, following a video message from Secretary Duncan, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secretary Education Thelma Melendez spoke to members of the National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE) in Denver, Colorado. Roughly 2,300 of NABE’s members — from teachers, parents, and students to policymakers and business leaders — gathered to celebrate the organization’s 40-year history of working to ensure high-quality teaching and learning for English learners (ELs).

In his greeting, the Secretary emphasized that access to an excellent education for bilingual students is a civil rights issue. In her remarks, Dr. Melendez explained why the success of this diverse and fast-growing student group is so vital to this nation’s prosperity. She noted that roughly one in ten students in the United States is an EL, that 78% of ELs are born in the U.S., and that these students speak over 400 languages. The Assistant Secretary also recounted her own experience as an English learner. Her parents came to California from Mexico, and the family spoke Spanish at home. A supportive kindergarten teacher started her on the road to English proficiency.

Dr. Melendez highlighted a request totaling $800 million for the English Learning Education program in the President’s fiscal year 2011 budget. The funds would help to increase students’ English language proficiency, promote academic success, and encourage bi-literacy in order to strengthen America’s global competitiveness. Dr. Melendez also discussed the upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

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