At La Cosecha ("harvest," in Spanish), Donado noted that becoming multilingual, let alone a multilingual nation, is a challenge, as evidenced by our nation's efforts in that area and the resistance they typically engender. She noted, however, that America must continue to make the effort because the return on investment is incalculable — economically, culturally, socially, politically and in terms of living a rich life.
ETS researchers met with experts, teachers, academics, principals and administrators from around the country and found that:
- ELLs are poorly served.
- They are often misclassified, put into the wrong level of instruction, branded as slow learners, and receive less attention, resources and effort.
- Teachers, including those who teach subjects other than English language learning, often lack preparation for diverse classrooms.
- Teacher professional development with regard to English learners is woefully inadequate.
- Because test scores often are delayed many months, teachers don't know the proficiency level of their students until well into the school year.
"In fact, researchers are finding evidence that just the opposite is true — that learning two or more languages from a very early age improves cognitive abilities in such areas as mental flexibility, abstract thinking, and what is known as `working memory,' a type of short-term memory important for learning and problem solving. There is evidence that dual-language learning does this by developing greater tissue density in the areas of the brain related to language, and by increasing brain activity."
Donado also described research underway into the economic benefits of multilingualism among ELLs. In collaborative research, ETS's Policy Evaluation and Research Center and Patricia Gandara of the UCLA Graduate School of Education commissioned a series of papers examining the economic impact of bilingualism and biliteracy. Among their findings is that bilingualism:
- results in higher earnings for workers in their 20s;
- is associated in Southern California with decreasing high school dropout rates and increasing occupational status and income; and,
- among Spanish speakers, is associated with higher rates of college attendance, which contributes to higher earnings later in life.
"Nor is it just a pedagogical problem," she continued. "As our nation's history shows, linguistic diversity is also a political issue, a cultural challenge and a social imperative. It is wonderful that we have this conference. But let's face it: We are all in the choir. We need to preach to the unenlightened. And that's much harder."
"Time and again, research has shown that higher levels of educational attainment are associated with improved health and longevity; individual, family and community stability; and more inclusive, adaptable societies. For the United States in the remainder of the 21st century, the question is simple: What kind of society do WE want to be?"
accurate knowledge of it. Our future relations with Spain and Spanish America
will render that language a valuable acquisition."
"Who wrote it? Thomas Jefferson, to his nephew in 1787. Jefferson spoke and valued languages. Let us heed his advice, but extend the practice to other languages."
About ETSAt ETS, we advance quality and equity in education for people worldwide by creating assessments based on rigorous research. ETS serves individuals, educational institutions and government agencies by providing customized solutions for teacher certification, English language learning, and elementary, secondary and post-secondary education, as well as conducting education research, analysis and policy studies. Founded as a nonprofit in 1947, ETS develops, administers and scores the TOEFL® and TOEIC® tests, the GRE® tests and The Praxis Series™ assessments. www.ets.org
SOURCE Educational Testing Service