Posts Tagged ‘Language Policy’

Position Statement on Language Policy

February 6th, 2010

(Approved by the SSTESOL Board of Directors September 28,2002)

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: …language belongs to each one of us, to the flower-seller as much as to the professor … language can generate an astounding amount of heat.  What is it about language that makes people so passionate, and so curious?  The answer is that there is almost no aspect of our lives that is not touched by language.  We live in and by language. *

* Source:    McCrum, R., W. Cran, and R. McNeil (1986) The Story of English: A Companion to the PBS Television Series. New York: Viking Penguin Inc.

As language professionals we frequently witness the personal and passionate reactions to English language teaching and bilingual issues in our school systems that might be reflective of the McCrum, Cran and McNeil quote as stated above. We believe that occasionally these personal reactions can impact school policies or legislation that is academically destructive for English language learners.  “English Only” laws, limitations placed upon the amount of time any language learner can be served in an instructional program, lack of support for bilingual programs are a few of these issues.  Thus, SSTESOL takes a position here on language policy that is reflective of issues relative to language as an integral part of the life of all human beings.

Position: The Board of SSTESOL supports in its entirety, the California Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages’ (CATESOL) position statement on language policy. (Used with permission.)  Adaptations appear in brackets.  The original CATESOL statement can be read at http://www.catesol.org/langpol.html

[SSTESOL] is committed to:

  • respecting the diverse linguistic and cultural heritages of non-native speakers of English,
  • promoting professional competence and professional standards in the teaching of English to speakers of other languages or dialects,
  • monitoring relevant educational policy,
  • representing the needs of non-native speakers of English and their teachers to decision-making bodies such as school districts and the [Florida]state legislature, and
  • advancing the professional field of teaching English to speakers of other languages or dialects of English.

In implementing these commitments:

We [SSTESOL] affirm that language is a major source of individual, personal and cultural identity since it is central to intellectual development and socialization plus basic to learning and concept formation.

Therefore:

  • We support language policies which meet the needs of a pluralistic society in an era of global interdependence.
  • We support public policies and actions which further understanding of the importance of language and culture in the education process.
  • We recognize the rights of all individuals to preserve and foster their linguistic and cultural origins and to maintain their native languages.
  • We affirm the rights of non-native speakers of English to use languages other than English.
  • We support the right of all non-native speakers of English to have access to educational programs in which to learn to function in the common language of communication, English.
  • We support the study of languages other than English especially for native English speakers.
  • We affirm that all [Floridians] have rights to government services and equal appropriate and fair treatment by the law regardless of English proficiency.

We [SSTESOL] advocate the respect and wide-spread acceptance of other languages as well as English.

Therefore:

  • We affirm that non-native speakers are entitled to positive affirmation of their linguistic and cultural backgrounds.
  • We advocate promoting multilingualism as a positive value to individuals and society.
  • We advocate that schools develop and encourage the potential for multilingualism in students.

We affirm the right of non-native speakers of English in [Florida] to have access to educational equity through adequate and appropriate English as a second language an content area instruction programs in both public and private sectors.

This includes the right to:

  • participate in a program that adequately assesses language proficiency through tests normed on non-native speakers of English and other appropriate assessments such as academic performance and motivation.
  • participate in programs taught by teachers with training and credentials appropriate for working with linguistically and culturally diverse students.
  • participate in a coherent curriculum using materials appropriate to the needs and levels of learners
  • participate in programs for a sufficient time to develop English and academic competencies needed for personal, social, educational and career use.
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Position Statement on Bilingual Education*

February 6th, 2010

(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.

Therefore:

  • 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.

References

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.

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