My name is Arthur Love. I’m the acting director of the Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Language Affairs.
I think it’s a major challenge because teachers working with LEP students need to have every skill and competency of a regular teacher plus the specialized skills and knowledges of working with limited English students. Uh, it is a tremendous challenge, but the skills and knowledge of how to deal with culturally diverse universes, to be able to know the principles of second language acquisition and the ability to be able to communicate, not just with students, but very often with parents are very, very important for a teacher to be truly effective in the classroom and to be able to help these children.
I think I don’t want to say we’ve been ineffective in the past, but we do think there is sufficiently, uh, a need now for preparing new teachers to one, meet a teacher shortage, a tremendous teacher shortage in bilingual education, and two, to try to apply some of the things we think we’ve learned about more effective, uh, training programs for teachers that we’ve--in--in here in the department of education, we’ve had a major emphasis increasing funds, uh, from just a few years ago where we had relatively few, I believe $15 million and our budget requests for 2001 is $100 million. It’s a tremendous increase, but it’s a very, very significant problem if we don’t find the numbers of new highly trained bilingual education teachers, we’re not going to be able to meet the needs of LEP children.
Well, first, historically we always have had issues dealing with immigrant populations and bilingual populations here in the United States. We’re a nation of immigrants, basically, uh, and we--we’ve always had an ability to deal with it, but at times it gets more emphasis. This is a time when we’re very cognizant that we have large numbers of immigrant children who are not getting the education they need at a time when we’re concerned about the overall education system. Part of the ojo--overall education system and the need to improve it is to meet our obligation to the needs of limited English proficient students. We have a tremendous gap between what we think children deserve and need to have full equity and opportunity in our system and what we’re delivering. It doesn’t mean the people before us were trying--or neglecting, but they were not meeting what we feel the needs are to have a world class education system here in the United States.
The current situation with our programs is an interesting one. What we have is we have not just a continuation from bilingual education as perhaps it existed 20 years ago, but we have some new interesting develops, and if you will, perhaps our programs more are a synthesis, in Hagalian (ph) terms, what we have is we have our old bilingual education programs, but they’ve been modified in light of things like the Government Performance and Results Act and the Standards Base Educational Reform movement. This has meant our bilingual programs are much different than they were perhaps 10 years ago. We have a large focus on accountability on trying to learn just exactly which programs are effective, which can seen--seen--be seen to be effective and what we try to do, and since my office runs a discretionary grant program, is we try to find the most effective programs and disseminate those to the field so that we can convey the information on what works as best as possible to the practitioners in the field who need this information.
This is--this is one of my favorite questions and I do get asked this one a lot. I think the future of bilingual education, despite many people’s political feelings at the moment, is very, very good. What we have is we have a program that has a tremendous need. We now, I believe, have answers how to make sure that we’re getting the money and the results that children need directly placed upon the children, the limited English proficient children, who need them. We basically now, I think, have much more clarity and some of this clarity has come from opponents of bilingual education who’ve made us focus on just what it is that we’re trying to do and make sure that what we’re trying to do benefits children. We have a couple basic principles that we try to apply to everything we do in this office. One, every child to learn English. Two, every child to learn the content subjects at a high performance level and three, we try to make all decisions to be child-centered, to be research-based and data-driven. We believe as long as we’re focused on these basic principles and the goal of making every grant that we give out in this office the best it can be and that we can demonstrate that our grants positively help the LEP children, that even the opponents of bilingual education will have no objections to the positive results that we’ll achieve. Once they understand that this is not about debates between adults, but about positive results with children, any question about the success of our program will evaporate.
Well, first I think we need to remember that every successful bilingual program has an ESL component That’s an essential part of the bilingual education experience. Now, some programs are more focused on bilingual approach, other times we see, uh, a more pure ESL approach. One of the things that we always try to stress is that the choice and methodology may very well be a local decision and it should be based on the needs of the children in that locality. We think as long as the locality focuses on that approach, you may at times see more emphasis on one and more emphasis on the other, but they will--the community will be committed to addressing the needs of the LEP kids.
I think one thing we need to remember is that what we’re trying to do in my office and in the bilingual education field in general, is to ensure equity in excellence. What we’re trying to do is ensure that the LEP child receives his full rights of education. He’s treated as a full member of the American community and gets the opportunity to be able to be anything he wants and can work and make himself. This is essential to exercise in full rights of a citizen and this is one of the ways that it comes about. I think we need to think about where these programs come from. They come from the general idea that there are some students that cannot fully participate unless their special needs are met. It’s a--basically, a legal requirement in that sense and there is a strong federal and state policy rule to make sure that there is a level playing field, that all children get the opportunity to be able to compete equally in the education area. If that means the community needs to provide bilingual classes or in some cases it might be special education classes for a handicapped child, but this is an essential need that needs to be met by communities. Sometimes communities aren’t aware of these special needs. Uh, for example, we always use the illustration that one of the problems in local control of education is that the local community may be very desirous of perhaps hiring a football coach and that may be a good thing and the community may be totally behind that, but you would only do that once you meet the minimum requirements for every child to have equal access to education. If that means you can’t do this football coach, for example, you first meet the needs, you create what we call the ‘social safety net,’ no kids are allowed to drop below the social safety net. Once you’re got those requirements met, then you can ensure that control is local and they know how to spend the money on what they want and we support that principle, but there’s a role for all the different levels, federal, state and local in the policy arena.
It’s a sort of a difficult thing ‘cause there’s different advoc--advocacy can mean different things to different people. When you’re talking about advocating the needs of the student, obviously, we feel strongly that the teacher needs to be an advocate for those rights. At the same time, we at the department are not going to be put in the position of calling on teachers to get out and become politically active advocates, that’s an individual decision and it would be inappropriate for a federal official to get involved. But we have to observe that teachers are--are citizens like all other citizens and we have seen tremendous, uh, teacher involvement on important issues like the proposition 227 in California and I won’t speak to whether or not that was a good idea or a bad idea, but we do think that the teacher advocacy role must always be focused first upon advocacy for the limited English proficient, in our case, needs of their students and then only later if they wish to become advocates in other ways, that’s--that’s on their own.
Uh, we often get asked about the impact of proposition 227 and I think there’s a few observations we can make at this time. First, it’s far, far too early for any of the data that’s currently coming out, we feel, to have very much scientific validity, but we think there are some lessons that need to be--to be learned from this and for--to some focus to be brought on to it. First, if 227 brought attention on the problem and brought specialized concern for the deeds of these students and test results went up as a result of that, it’s a positive thing. We don’t view this as a political problem. These are all educational problems. The--the children, hopefully, are going to get a better education as a result of 227 and the increased concern. We’re not sure it’s because of the methodology 227, uh, mandates, we think that there are things such as smaller class size, increased parental involvement, attention on the problem, professional training for teachers. We think the problem with proposition 227 and adopting one methodology, is it’s too restrictive. Why should you ever restrict yourself to one methodology, should be whatever methodology is appropriate for the local community, whatever works best for the student. A wider range of methodologies seems to us to be a better approach than to believe you have the right answer and mandate it statewide, then test and then maybe, eventually, decide maybe--maybe it’s not very much the perfect answer. But bilingual education is essentially live and well in California because we have as many grants, bilingual education grants under Title Seven now that meet the requirements of proposition 227, as we had before the proposition was proposed. So we think the interest and the needs still exist in California and that we’re still trying to serve that need to best of our ability.
One of the big areas of concern here is that there needs to be community understanding. Uh, in--in very much, as I mentioned before, we are a nation of immigrants, but a lot of times people forget this basic background experience of America and they see people coming as simply being different. Teachers of--of, uh, LEP students, LEP students themselves, very often face problems in integrating fully into the community both at the school level and into the actual community itself. And I think teachers have to be very well aware of the situation. It--it--it’s something that they need to be able to have a full knowledge of all the linguistical and cultural diversity and differences and how to best use the facilities at their hand, the educational techniques, the skills they have, to make the education of these children a success and to help them to be able to integrate into the broader society around them. It’s a tremendous challenge on many different levels and, you know, those that are extremely skilled at doing this are truly among the elite of the teaching corps.
Well, actually there’s two things I might like to combat this. The first, I was thinking when you started the question, that there’s a very basic--th--there’s a tremendously challenging area that’s coming from research that’s going on now into what are the benefits of second language learning. And I was thinking not in so much in the terms of the teacher, but in--in benefits of the child. We now have some research, uh, evidence showing that, brain research, on second language acquisition that shows it’s a tremendous personal advantage to the actual student. Uh, second language acquisition along with mathematics are two of the areas that seem to excite the most neural pathways of any other learning so that the se--the entire mental apparatus of the student that is learning or acquiring a second language is just totally highlighted and they become just a better learner across all the fields of learning. I think this is a tremendously exciting idea. It shows that there’s just real advantages in second language learning. The advantages for the teacher is it’s obviously a challenging thing where they’re doing something that is exciting, that they are helping students learn at such a high level. I think a lot of times, you don’t think about it, but I made the--the, uh, connection to higher level mathematics. I think a lot of times teachers understand the relevance of higher level mathematics to the teaching role.
(Sirens can be heard in the background throughout following paragraph)
It’s--it’s clear to me that second language learners are that type of high level learning.
The children that have dual language or multiple language capabilities are going to be much better off economically and they’re going to be among the elite of our educated
population and that is a tremendous and exciting thing. I think the teachers to be able to participate in doing that type of work that’s going to have such a major impact on the population of all students in the United States.
(Mr. Love is asked to do a recap of previous paragraph due to siren noise)
As far as what benefits teachers get in second language acquisition, I think the fact that teachers are dealing in a subject area, like I mentioned briefly before, that is similar to mathematics, it’s a very high level, uh, education area. People understand the acquisition of mathematics being a high level. I think at times people don’t understand that second language acquisition is just the same type of higher level activity. Students who learn a second language are going to be among the better paid, the elite of the student population in our country. This is very, very important work. It has, uh, benefits that go beyond just economics. They support the country in its international arena. They are contributing in such a major way, not just to pure science like a mathematician, but to the broader goals of the country, uh, as it relates to a--to a increasingly interconnected, uh, world. And this is just a tremendous challenge for teachers to be able to be part of this growing realization that we are part of the world community.
Well, first I think we need to realize that we have such a tremendous shortage of teachers. The shortages of all teachers are--it’s a particularly bad problem for bilingual teachers, but we face as a country just a shortage of teachers nationwide. And we need to be able to address that shortage or we won’t be able to deliver the services for all their children. Uh, we’re trying to meet some of that challenge in the department by increasing funds and programs that deal with professional development. We believe that we need to be creative in how we reach out and find people to come into the teaching community. In some cases it might be a para--professional that, you know, brings certain skills. Another case is we need to tap into people that perhaps are beginning a second career, for example, coming out of the military. That people that bring strong programs skills, strong knowledge skills in there, for example, in math or science from a, perhaps a business career or in an academic career, but then later in life want to get a challenge to go out and try to--to actually teach. We need to find ways to get people with this type of knowledge base in the classroom so as to be able to--to give the best education possible to all their children.
First, is there’s a concept that we need to integrate, uh, concern for LEP students in all areas of education. Uh, this is not something that can simply be isolated. In--in some schools in the past it was unfortunate, but both limited English students and--and special education students were very often put out in trailers out at the school and kind of--they were out there. This issue needs to be integrated into the entire school and to the entire school system until everyone understands just exactly what it is we’re trying to do and it--basically, it approaches a systemic--systemic problem instead of just an isolated problem, we’re not going to make the progress we really need.
Two, I think that I want to also promote a program that we have now. It’s a secretary’s, uh, program on dual language and we are...
(Mr. Love is asked to start over)
Secondly, I’d like to--to bring up a program that has--uh, is the brainchild of Secretary Riley here at the department of education. It’s his dual language initiative. What we’re training the dual language initiative is to take students whose--who have native language other than English and teach them English the way we do in all of our programs, but basically also bring in other students and have basically a dual language. Have classes operated in more than one language. What it takes is, it takes students--very often the approach is students of limited English have a--viewed as being deficient in English. We’re trying to break that paradigm and have students that are already proficient perhaps in Spanish, but in some other places there are other languages, Spanish is not the only language that we serve, but students who are proficient in these other languages, then help students whose native language is English become proficient in a second language. This way the students that emerge from these programs are just tremendously better capable of dealing with the world economic situation. They are just already--their--their education experience is just so much more elevated than people who come to a second language later in their career, very often the way we’ve taught foreign languages in--in late high school years or in college years, they try to add it on to the, uh, repertoire a student has and it’s not nearly as successful, we believe, as beginning early in the educational experience at the elementary level and being able to just bring students along and understand the world in a dual language model.