Equity & Diversity

Home Language an Asset for ELLs, Duncan Says

By Lesli A. Maxwell — June 04, 2013 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

His comments aren’t likely to ignite a new battle in the bilingual education wars, but U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan over breakfast last week gave perhaps his clearest statements to date on the concept of dual-language development and instruction, especially for students who are English-language learners.

English-learners, he said at a meeting with reporters, come to school with a major asset—their home languages—that educators should capitalize on, especially in the early grades.

“It is clearly an asset that these kids are coming to school with,” and one that should be “maintained” so that English-learners can become truly bilingual, Mr. Duncan said.

“The fact that our kids don’t grow up [bilingual] puts them at a competitive disadvantage,” he said, noting students in many other countries commonly learn at least one other language.

His position is backed by research, most recently by a federally funded analysis that concludes that young English-learners still developing oral and literacy skills in their home languages benefit most from early-childhood programs that expose them to both languages.

In fact, the secretary put more emphasis on the benefits of providing bilingual education to English-learners in early-childhood programs, which does not spark the heated controversies and debate that it has in the K-12 space.

Over the course of 45 minutes and a bowl of cinnamon-speckled oatmeal topped with chopped green apples, Mr. Duncan spoke about a range of issues related to Hispanic students, including the potential he thinks the Obama administration’s universal preschool initiative holds for the Latino community.

“Less than half of Hispanic children attend any sort of early-childhood education,” Mr. Duncan said. “It’s sort of staggering, and then we wonder why we have achievement gaps in kindergarten.”

During his time as schools chief in Chicago, the district began offering evening prekindergarten—from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.—in some Hispanic communities where there were long waiting lists for morning and afternoon programs.

“People thought we were crazy,” he said. “But we had a huge take-up on that. You have to be creative about how you provide the opportunities.”

A version of this article appeared in the June 05, 2013 edition of Education Week as Duncan Talks ELLs, Home Languages

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Critical Ways Leaders Can Build a Culture of Belonging and Achievement
Explore innovative practices for using technology to build an environment of belonging and achievement for all staff and students.
Content provided by DreamBox Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Professional Development Webinar
Strategies for Improving Student Outcomes with Teacher-Student Relationships
Explore strategies for strengthening teacher-student relationships and hear how districts are putting these methods into practice to support positive student outcomes.
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Transform Teaching and Learning with AI
Increase productivity and support innovative teaching with AI in the classroom.
Content provided by Promethean

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Opinion Educators Will Teach 'Truth About Oppression' Despite CRT Attacks
Although some educators fear for their jobs, they say not teaching what students need to know would be a disservice.
12 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Equity & Diversity How Carefully Tailored PD Can Help Principals Become Equity Leaders
A partnership involving several districts suggests smart professional development can help principals improve equitable practices.
5 min read
Image of a staff meeting.
E+
Equity & Diversity What One State's Transgender Student Policy Could Mean for Students
Experts fear Virginia's model policy could endanger the mental health and safety of trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming students.
6 min read
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin wants districts to adopt a model policy that restricts how schools and teachers deal with transgender students.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin speaks with reporters after touring a Loudoun County elections facility at the County Office of Elections, in Leesburg, Va., Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. Youngkin inspected ballot scanning machines undergoing logic and accuracy testing.
Cliff Owen/AP
Equity & Diversity Who's Behind the Escalating Push to Ban Books? A New Report Has Answers
Right-wing activist organizations and Republican lawmakers are pushing to get books about LGBTQ people and racism removed, says PEN America.
5 min read
Image of books piled in a locked cell.
erhui1979/DigitalVision Vectors