Addressing Policy Rather Than Mindset to Protect Our Dual Language Programs

Dual Language (DL) programs always tend to be on the chopping block.  Those whose mindsets are against DL often give a variety of reasons for our programs to face demise.  

Let’s be honest.  Sometimes programs are in danger because we, as Dual Language educators, have failed to build a strong program.  We have either failed to follow the non-negotiables of Dual Language Education (at least 6 years program duration, at least 50% of instruction in the Language Other Than English (LOTE) with Language Arts being taught in both languages each year, and strict separation of language on the part of adults), or we have simply not provided strong instruction that addresses grade-level standards.  Either of these can give us data that does not measure up to what we expect from a Dual Language program.  In response, we often get the canned answer, “Dual Language programs don’t work.” Instead of wanting to cut the program, we should be conducting a deep analysis of how to improve our program.  After all, when was the last time someone wanted to cut math because our instruction was not up to par?  

Other times, we may have a robust program but we simply have not kept up with the data or examined it in comparison to Thomas and Collier’s graph (2009).  Unless we carefully ensure that we are analyzing our data and doing so in the context of Dual Language programming, that canned answer we just mentioned will haunt us again.  Data are friends of strong DL programs; they can effectively fight against biased mindsets.

Sometimes issues such as finding teachers or resources may be raised.  While these are legitimate concerns, there are solutions for these issues when all parties from current teachers to building and district administrators to state department of education officials work together as a team to creatively solve the issues.  Visa programs, partnerships with colleges, and creative recruiting can help secure teachers.  Resources may have to be created by teachers and other educators, especially in less common partner languages.  But where there is a will, there is a way.  

And let’s be honest; sometimes it is plain racism at play.  No matter what solutions are offered, a circle of reasons are given as to why our Emergent Bilinguals, or students who are identified as having a home Language Other Than English (LOTE) and are in the process of gaining proficiency in English at school, should not access Dual Language programs.  And the circle is never ending.  As you solve one problem, the next one appears.  You solve that next problem, and it is followed by another.  Until by the end, you are at the first problem, already solved yet serving as a repeated excuse not to keep the program.

In response to this circle of reasons, multilingual leaders (administrators and teachers) often try to change mindsets by sharing the famous graph or by explaining the importance of preserving linguistic diversity in order to support students’ identities.  However, Ibram Kendi (2019) warns us of getting stuck in the business of changing mindsets.  He warns us that unless we work on actual policy changes, we will be in perpetual warfare with those who are stuck in racist ideology.  Therefore, we must consider embedding Dual Language into district and state policy if we want to protect our programs. This is a step states like Connecticut have taken to ensure the survival of Dual Language programs, which requires districts to determine the feasibility of Dual Language programming.  

Here are some steps you can take to enact any policy change in favor of Dual Language (or in favor of any equity endeavor).

  1. Prime a few people in equity work.  Provide these people continued opportunities to conduct self development in areas of race and social justice.  Remember that a single workshop is never enough because the other 364 days are de facto workshops in the systemic racism that we all live and breathe everyday.  If you are trying to protect your Dual Language programming, the people you prime should also be well versed in Dual Language Education and how DL programs serve as social justice tools for our Emergent Bilingual students.  
  2. Create equity-based protocols and policies and have them passed through the school district’s Board of Education.  In the case of Dual Language, if you have a large enough program, you may choose to enact a policy that allows all students who are identified as Emergent Bilinguals to enroll in Dual Language programming.
  3. Remember that policies can be reversed.  After all, think about the Voting Rights Act, what it was, and what it is today.  Therefore, it is important to keep priming both the original policy writers and additional people for equity in order to build an equity culture.  This way, even if the original policy writers leave the district, there will be a culture that can sustain the work embedded within the policy.  

It is important to protect our Dual Language programs.  Consider if writing and passing a policy to protect the program can support yours.

One comment

  1. […] In our last post, we discussed how Dual Language (DL) programs always tend to be on the chopping block.  Various reasons may be given. Many of those reasons may even be legitimate concerns that need to be addressed such as instructional strategies or the need for high quality resources.  But always mindset has a greater role to play when contemplating the demise of a Dual Language program.  After all, how often have you heard that the teaching of science is not working; therefore, we need to get rid of it? […]

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