Edu-Wednesday: A Moment in Time in Education for Latinos

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Guest Post by Andrés Henriquez (@AndresHenriquez)

This is a moment in time in US Education, especially for Latinos.  The Common Core Standards for English Language and Arts and Mathematics, a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association and Chief State School Officers have been adopted by 47 states.

Implementation of the Standards will begin in 2014.  The Common Core standards represent an opportunity for many young people to get a quality and equitable education regardless of their zip code.

I was encouraged to hear President Obama say in the State of the Union that as a nation we need to out-educate and out-innovate ourselves out of this Great Recession.  Our nation is fortunate to have a young and vibrant Latino demographic that will allow us to keep our competitive edge in order to compete in our global economy. But our country’s potential will be lost if we cannot provide our young people with the education they need to meet their individual potential.

The United States now has more English language learners than ever before. More than one in ten Pre-K-12 students are  English language learners, according to a Carnegie Corporation-supported meeting and report Investing in Our Next Generation.  What’s more, these children are no longer just concentrated in schools in larger cities–many are now in suburban and rural areas where many teachers are not prepared to teach ELLs.  Given this challenge, how will we close the achievement gaps that currently exist? How will the English Language Arts fit in English language learners?

Admittedly, the Common Core is explicit on this issue “it is beyond the scope of the Standards to define the full range of supports appropriate for English language learners” so for ELLs the Standards do not go far enough.  Our adolescent ELLs may still be developing proficiency in their second language and they still need to develop language proficiency in academic areas like science and history.  In a sense, English-language learners must perform Double the Work of native English speakers.  However, researchers and policymakers alike are considering ways to make annotations to the English Language Arts Common Core that would provide teachers with English Language Proficiency guidance.

And there is action at the Federal level as well. The Office of English Language and Assessments, in partnership with the Office of Elementary Secondary Education and the White House Initiative on Excellence for Hispanic Americans are currently holding a series of national conversations with educators, administrators, parents, policymakers, researchers, students and advocates to begin to  address areas of concerns and begin to collect best practices.

Many of these issues will be raised, but more importantly, it is critical that they also hear our voices. Let’s capitalize on this moment in time!  Please make an effort to join the National Conversations on English language learners.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Andrés Henríquez is a program officer in the National Program of Carnegie Corporation of New York, where he leads the Corporation’s work on standards and assessments as well as the work in adolescent literacy.  Prior to joining the Corporation, Henríquez served as the Assistant Director at the Center for Children and Technology (CCT) at the New York offices of the Education Development Center, Inc. He has also worked as a program officer at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Washington, as a senior research analyst at MTV Networks, a researcher at Sesame Workshop and taught for five years at a public elementary school in East Harlem. He received his undergraduate degree in psychology from Hamilton College and a M.Ed. from Teachers College, Columbia University.

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