January 25, 2019

Leveling the playing field in dual-language programs

Dual-language programs are on the rise in U.S. schools — and these programs are often concentrated in affluent or gentrifying neighborhoods. Penn GSE’s Nelson Flores, writing for EdWeek’s “10 Big Ideas in Education” report, explains that inequitable participation contributes to a hierarchy between racialized and elite bilingualism, creating challenges for schools and school leaders. 

Dr. Nelson Flores
Racialized bilinguals are students of color who speak a non-dominant language at home and learn English in school, while elite bilinguals are white students who speak English at home and learn a second language in school. Flores notes that racialized bilinguals are less likely to have access to dual-language programs and that when they do, their lived linguistic experiences are often not properly valued in the classroom. 

To promote more equitable participation in dual-language programs, Flores recommends that schools, districts, and states lead efforts to reconsider how language proficiency is assessed — and to fundamentally reframe the expertise that racialized bilingual students bring to classroom settings.  

Read the full EdWeek piece here.