Equity & Diversity

Home Language an Asset for ELLs, Duncan Says

By Lesli A. Maxwell — June 04, 2013 1 min read

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
Student Well-Being Webinar
Measuring & Supporting Student Well-Being: A Researcher and District Leader Roundtable
Students’ social-emotional well-being matters. The positive and negative emotions students feel are essential characteristics of their psychology, indicators of their well-being, and mediators of their success in school and life. Supportive relationships with peers, school
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
School & District Management Webinar
Making Digital Literacy a Priority: An Administrator’s Perspective
Join us as we delve into the efforts of our panelists and their initiatives to make digital skills a “must have” for their district. We’ll discuss with district leadership how they have kept digital literacy
Content provided by Learning.com
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
School & District Management Webinar
How Schools Can Implement Safe In-Person Learning
In order for in-person schooling to resume, it will be necessary to instill a sense of confidence that it is safe to return. BD is hosting a virtual panel discussing the benefits of asymptomatic screening
Content provided by BD

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 'We All Have LGBTQ Students, Whether We Know It or Not'
Three educators provide suggestions to support LGBTQ students, including respecting pronouns and having LGBTQ authors in classroom libraries.
11 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Equity & Diversity Opinion Strategies for Supporting LGBTQ Students
Three educators share ways to help LGBTQ students.
10 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Equity & Diversity Opinion Trans Youth Are Under Attack. Educators Must Step Up
What can schools do in the face of the extreme hostility trans and gender-nonconforming young people now face across the country?
Harper B. Keenan & Z Nicolazzo
4 min read
A butterfly lands on balanced stones in front of tranquil waters and a sunset
Pict Rider/iStock/Getty images<br/>
Equity & Diversity Opinion When Does Educational Equity Become Educationally Unethical?
Equity stumbles into a truly gruesome place when educators are directed to shortchange students based on how they look or where they live.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty