In a speech last month, US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona described the department’s aim for the year ahead as the harnessing of “the collective will to act boldly and unapologetically to address student underperformance and the decades of underinvestment in education.”
Cardona promised that the Biden administration would focus on “substance, not sensationalism,” while emphasizing the need to increase teacher salaries and to offer students more opportunities to become multilingual:
“It’s my intention to Raise the Bar so we can lead the world in advanced career and technical education,” explained Cardona. “And speaking of global competitiveness, if we are to prepare our students for a global market, let’s Raise the Bar to provide better opportunities for our students in America to be Multilingual.
“Recently at a ministerial meeting in France with 38 other countries, I was surprised that we were one of a few countries that was primarily monolingual.
“Learning another, or multiple languages should be expected of our students and anchored as a skill that will enhance their global engagement and increase opportunities for success. Ya es tiempo de aprender otro idioma!
What does it look like to increase multilingualism?
First off, it means improving our bilingual and dual language program to follow the research on second language development.
We will provide support and assistance to the 50 states who are working to improve their English Development Programs and Multilingual Language Programs. Don’t forget: every year, there is $760 million in Title III funding from the Department of Education that can help you support English learners.
Let’s look at our students in bilingual programs as gifted with assets that we want other students to have.
Being bilingual and bicultural is a superpower!
Let’s place a high value on having graduates be multilingual. Recognition for that, such as earning a Seal of Biliteracy, which many states have, should be celebrated at graduation as much as an honors cord. Let’s face it: you will have more options in life being bilingual. Let’s improve multilingual education to give our students opportunities to excel in global markets where multilingualism and cultural differences are embraced and valued.
At the Department of Education, we will prioritize these focus areas and expand opportunities for technical assistance and use of federal funding. In the coming months, you will hear more details for each of these categories. Our actions at the Department must support our beliefs, and we intend to do that.”
We need a language education program in the US that starts young enough and meets often enough and involves such a degree of immersion that it can be successful. That will require widespread parental and community support. We are a long way from all of these things.
Super Congratulations to U.S. Secretary of Education Cardona for his clear and courageous declaration of renewed and expanded efforts to promote bilingualism in the United States. As the Principal of P.S. 25, the first Bilingual School in New York City and one of the founders of NABE and NYSABE, it feels like a dream come true to know the highest ranking official in American education is announcing to the United States and the rest of the world that we will no longer ignore the rich cultural and linguistic resources of our uniquely varied population. With great confidence I feel that Secretary Cardona will be eminently successful in achieving his goals. ¡Felicidades!
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