Dual-Language Proposals Part of Boston Mayoral Campaign

By Lesli A. Maxwell — October 18, 2013 2 min read
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Happy Friday, Learning the Language readers! I’ve missed writing regularly in this space the last few weeks, as I’ve been immersed in and traveling for a special project (more on that in a few weeks) and haven’t had as much time to share news and notes from the English-language learner world.

But while in the home office this week working on a story about the Boston mayoral campaign and the two candidates competing to succeed long-time Mayor Thomas Menino, I was surprised to find dual-language proposals in both campaign platforms.

That two big-city mayoral candidates have proposed expanding dual-language offerings signals the growing recognition of the value of dual-language learning, both for English-language learners and native English-speakers. Remember that in Boston, the mayor runs the school system, so it goes without saying that these candidates need to have substantial education ideas for the city.

At the same time, Boston—widely cited as a model for urban school reform—is a school system that has struggled to provide a strong instructional program for its growing population of English-language learners. So much so that it drew the scrutiny of federal civil rights officials in 2009, when the U.S. Department of Justice investigated ELL programs in Boston and two other districts and found widespread deficiencies. That same scrutiny expanded statewide and has prompted a major undertaking by Massachusetts education officials to provide better training to teachers who work with English-learners.

No doubt the candidates—who appear to be quite steeped in education policy—are probably mindful of the federal government’s continuing interest in how well Boston schools are doing by their English-learner population. The Boston school district has already launched an expansion of dual-language programs that both candidates say they want to grow even more.

John Connolly, a Boston city councilor, has pledged to “rapidly expand dual-language seats into every neighborhood” in the city, according to his education platform. Late last year, he was part of a coalition of officials pushing for a new student-assignment plan that would have created nine new dual-language schools across the city. That plan was not ultimately selected by the Boston School Committee, the appointed school board.

Marty Walsh, a Massachusetts state representative, says expanding dual-language options should be part of a larger, citywide push to strengthen literacy skills for all students. On his campaign website, he also pledges to provide support for expanding dual-language offerings across the city.

The nonpartisan election in on Nov. 5.

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