What COULD Arne Duncan Say About ELLs at a Press Conference?

By Mary Ann Zehr — April 07, 2009 1 min read
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It’s not easy these days to get insight into the Obama Administration’s priorities for English-language learners. But maybe U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will fill us in a bit more during his press conference, scheduled for 10 a.m. Eastern Time tomorrow at the Oyster-Adams Bilingual School here in the Washington area.

The preK-8 school provides all instruction through dual language programs, in which students who are native speakers of English and students who are native speakers of Spanish learn both languages in the same classrooms. The school always has a waiting list for students who want to get in.

What are some of the points that Duncan could make about ELLs at such a school? He could note that research says preschoolers who are ELLs benefit from native-language instruction while learning English. He could say that he hopes states and school districts will make plans to use stimulus funds to improve schooling for ELLs. (See my earlier post on recommendations from researchers on how to do this.) He could endorse what researcher Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, co-director of immigration studies at New York University, has been saying—that dual-language programs are the gold standard for ELLs (see his column here). Duncan could announce who he’s chosen to be director of the office of English-language acquisition for the Education Department.

But the press release for the visit tomorrow says Duncan will be stressing the need for early childhood education. It’s possible he’ll sidestep speaking about issues regarding ELLs altogether.

So far the only statement I’ve seen come out of the Obama administration concerning ELLs is the brief that was filed in the long-running ELL case in Arizona that is expected to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on April 20. In the brief, the administration backed parents from the Nogales Unified School District who argue that the state of Arizona needs to provide sufficient funds for ELLs.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.