Bilingual education has historically been plagued with a bad reputation, regardless of the vast amount of research at the international level as well as personal success stories that prove otherwise. In order to counteract the negative myths, misconceptions and outright lies about bilingual education, it is imperative that bilingual education proponents work strategically to change the public perception of such programs. Whether you are a school or district administrator, bilingual coordinator, bilingual teacher, a parent raising bilingual children, or other stakeholder, the following suggestions are surefire ways to elevate the status of any bilingual program, whether it be Dual Immersion, transitional bilingual, or another form of bilingual education:
Provide High Quality Professional Development and Training
Teachers, administrators, parents and staff members should receive the highest quality training and professional development. Training should be provided on the bilingual program model design, foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism, literacy and biliteracy, the bilingual education research base, as well as second language methodology and differentiation for struggling and gifted learners. It is of utmost important that both administrators and teachers are experts in the field of dual language education and bilingual pedagogy.
Ensure that All Teachers Receive a Gifted and Talented (GATE) Certification
Imagine a bilingual program where all bilingual teachers at each grade level are highly trained in gifted and talented education! Research demonstrates that students who are involved in programs that are perceived as enrichment forms of education tend to outperform students in programs that are perceived as remedial in nature. Teachers who are GATE certified will possess the advanced skills required to differentiate for gifted students, therefore retaining GATE identified students in the bilingual program. Additional information about gifted and talented education can be found on the National Association for Gifted Children website or from one of your state affiliates for gifted education.
Engage in Frequent Public Relations Opportunities
It’s important that bilingual programs publicly celebrate their successes in order to counteract the constant misinformation that the general public is exposed to about bilingual education and bilingualism. Administrators, bilingual teachers, and parents of children in bilingual programs should frequently disseminate simple press releases of positive news and events regarding the bilingual program. It’s also recommended that each bilingual program have an informational brochure that is easily accessible to the public in the front office or other public location. In addition, bilingual teachers or parents might also create a simple website or blog in order to publicize success stories, events and other related information about the program, or bilingual education in general.
Implement Entrance Procedures for the Bilingual Program
All parents who would like to enroll their child in the bilingual program should be provided a formal orientation prior to entering the program. This orientation should provide a comprehensive understanding of the foundational principles of the program, the research base, program model design, and frequently answered questions. It is also recommended that parents sign a commitment form, committing to the program on a long-term basis. The commitment form is by no means a legally binding contract and parents can elect to leave the program at any time; however, the requirement of signing a commitment form suggests that commitment to the goals of the program is of utmost importance. Word of mouth travels quickly and the use of a commitment form sends a message that the program is an important, specialized program.
Important note: Entrance procedures should in no way be confused with pre-screening children to determine program placement. Multilingual Mania does not advocate pre-screening children prior to entering a bilingual program at the kindergarten level, as we believe that multilingualism should be accessible to all children, including struggling learners. We will be revisiting this topic shortly in another post.
Implement Exit Procedures for the Bilingual Program
All bilingual programs should institute a procedure in the event that parents choose to exit the bilingual program for one reason or another. Parents always have the option to exit their child from a bilingual program, however parents should be informed of the exit procedures upon enrollment in the program. It is recommended that parents are provided a formal exit interview in order to determine the reason that the parent wishes to exit their child from the program, and every effort should be made to address parent concerns. In the event that the parent continues to request exit from the program during the interview, parents should sign a formal form requesting exit from the program. Establishment of exit procedures in the form of an exit interview and formal exit form clearly illustrates that entry and exit from the program are taken seriously.
Important note: Multilingual Mania advocates for the inclusion of all students in multilingual programs, and we express caution in exiting children from a bilingual program if they are struggling learners, unless a parent requests exit from the program. Program exit should be considered a ‘last case scenario’ and every attempt to support students in biliteracy development must be taken. We will also be revisiting this topic shortly in another post.
Provide Extra-Curricular Activities that Promote Bilingualism
Bilingual programs should provide various opportunities for home-school collaboration that celebrate bilingualism and biliteracy. Both languages should be used and present in all school functions, such as open house, family nights and other home-school collaborations. Bilingual programs should include student performances such as plays, talent shows and other activities that highlight both languages. Every effort should be made for students to perform or showcase their class projects in both languages of the program.
Cultivate Partnerships With Local Businesses and Agencies
Bilingual programs should cultivate partnerships with local businesses that support and encourage bilingualism. School officials and parents should consider contacting the local chamber of commerce in their city in order to search for partnerships with businesses. Schools can invite bilingual business leaders to the school in order to discuss with students how bilingualism has been an asset to them as a professional, as well as information about the need for bilingual individuals in various careers. In addition, schools can establish student internships with local businesses who might be in need of bilingual services.
Establish Criteria for Bilingual Proficiency
In many states, assessment and accountability systems only take into consideration achievement in English. It is therefore important to establish criteria that recognizes and celebrates achievement in both program languages. Achievement and progress in both languages should be taken into consideration during award and achievement ceremonies and parent/teacher conferences. Bilingual programs are encouraged to institute formal recognitions in the form of “Bilingualism Attainment” or “Seal of Biliteracy” awards. More information about implementing a seal of biliteracy or biliteracy attainment certificates can be found here.
Critical Components of Effective Bilingual Programs
A Parent’s Guide to the Critical Components of Effective Bilingual Programs
Seal of Biliteracy Awards
Who is Qualified to Teach in a Bilingual Program?