(Approved by the SSTESOL Board of Directors, January 15, 2005)
Sunshine State Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages of Florida (SSTESOL) is a professional organization dedicated to the teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages. The mission of SSTESOL is to provide educators access to professional development, resources, and interactions and to provide leadership and advocacy in language policy issues.
Issue: Recent English-only legislative efforts and responses to current federal policies, such as No Child Left Behind, demonstrate pervasive misconceptions about the nature of quality bilingual education and its place in the field of TESOL. Not only do these policies neglect to take recent findings about second language acquisition into consideration, they also ignore the positive outcomes of well-implemented bilingual programs (Brisk, 1998; Thomas & Collier, 2002). As a result, valuable linguistic, economic, and cultural resources are being lost at a rapid rate.
With its growing language minority population, Florida could be a leader in innovative practices to exploit the linguistic and cultural diversity that exist in the states. Instead, the state has adopted a predominantly English-only policy to meet the needs of English language learners (ELLs). As evidence by the small number of bilingual programs being implemented in various counties, bilingual education remains largely invisible in the state.
Position: It is the position of the Board of SSTESOL that school districts should develop and implement quality bilingual education programs for English language learners and heritage language programs whenever such programs are feasible and desired by the community. A quality bilingual education program has the following defining features:
- Additive bilingualism as a desired outcome
- High academic standards
- Strong, supportive, and knowledgeable leadership
- Quality teaching staff
- Bilingual & bicultural curriculum
- Learner-centered approaches to teaching and learning, including on-going assessment and redesigning of programs.
- Strong parental/community involvement
(Source: Brisk, 1998; Cloud, Genesee, & Hamayan, 2000).
In addition, quality bilingual programs have an equal-status position in their schools and have equitable access to resources. To reach these goals, quality bilingual programs imply a long-term commitment and program implementation. The term ‘bilingual education’ should be reserved for programs that meet these criteria. Early-exit or transitional bilingual education programs are therefore excluded from this definition.
Two-way immersion (TWI) program are one example of a bilingual program that aims at high levels of bilingualism and biliteracy for all students. Its dual target population of native English-speakers and native minority-language speakers has the potential of creating optimal second language learning environments and opportunities for the development of cross-cultural competence. Developmental or maintenance bilingual education and bilingual education programs with a heritage language component are other examples.
- SSTESOL affirms the right of bilingual children to use and develop their native language and cultural resources they bring to school.
- SSTESOL advocates approaches to administrative leadership preparation that include the development of a knowledge base of the premises of quality bilingual education and the conditions for effective implementation.
- SSTESOL advocates that the Florida Department of Education, in collaboration with districts and university teacher preparation programs, develop a bilingual teacher certification option.
- SSTESOL proposes that, in collaboration with the Florida Department of Education, a Task Force be established to document existing bilingual education practices and to develop a plan to strengthen such practices and develop new bilingual education programs with the support of state and/or federal funds.
*A comment on terminology: After much debate, we have chosen the more generic term “bilingual education” to describe the programs we advocate for bilingual children. We avoid the use of “dual language instruction” because of its current narrow interpretation as two-way immersion (TWI) programs rather than a term with wider applicability. While we are aware of the public’s perceptions of the term bilingual education, we feel that it best describes the programs at issue in this position statement.
Brisk, M.E. (1998). Bilingual education: From compensatory to quality schooling. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Cloud, N., Genesee, F., & Hamayan, E. (2000). Dual language instruction. A handbook for enriched education. Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle.
Thomas, W. P., & Collier, V. (2002). A national study on the school effectiveness for language minority students’ long-term academic achievement. Final Report: Project 1.1. Santa Cruz, CA: Center for Excellence on Education, Diversity, & Excellence.