Right out of the gate, State Superintendent Brian Whiston is looking at the big picture. With a horizon of ten years, he and the State Board of Education are hoping to position Michigan as a Top Ten state for education.
When we think about how education in the state of Michigan will need to change over the next decade to make sure students are prepared to face the global war for talent, we think language. As information becomes more and more available via technology, classroom instruction needs to help develop problem-solving and communication skills.
Effectively implemented dual language immersion programs not only inherently foster those relevant problem-solving skills, they also promote multilingualism, cross-cultural sensitivity, and high academic achievement. If Michigan students are to become adults who successfully participate in a global economy and an increasingly multilingual society, state-level support for quality dual language immersion education would be a bold, strategic move. If students around the world are learning more than one language, why not Michigan students too?
As U.S. and international studies continue to demonstrate, effectively implemented dual language immersion programs meet the needs of both majority and minority language students, allowing them to achieve academically in two languages at no cost to their English literacy development. Although seemingly counterintuitive – students who learn academic subject matter in more than one language often outperform their traditionally educated monolingual peers.
That’s why we’re urging our allies in language education to encourage the State Board of Education to make academic achievement and global competence through quality dual language immersion programming a priority. In our ever-changing, increasingly connected world, we believe every Michigan student should have the opportunity to graduate proficient in more than one language – prepared to take on the world.
Language is inextricably entwined with our mental life, our perceiving, our remembering, our attending, our comprehending, our thinking, in short, all of our attempts to make sense of our experience in the world. (Lindfors, 1991, p. 8), (Clark, 2000).
Join add.a.lingua in calling on the State Board of Education to add.a.language and make Michigan a top ten education state.
You have two options to offer your input to the State Board of Education: complete the comment form; or send an email containing your response to firstname.lastname@example.org. Responses are requested by November 1, 2015. To help you get started, here a few key points to keep in mind as you communicate with the State Board of Education:
Increasing student preparedness through dual language immersion education should be one of Michigan’s educational goals because…
- the 21st century is global. Expanding students’ linguistic capacity prepares them for academic and vocational success in an increasingly interconnected world. “Companies that hope to penetrate multiple markets and coordinate work among them must factor language skills into the hiring, training, assessment, and promotion of talent.” – Harvard Business Review, September, 2015
- quality dual language immersion education is a proven model. Dual language immersion helps raise the status of minority languages while reducing achievement gaps for many English language learners that are far too prominent in the U.S. educational system. “The development of additive bilingual and biliteracy skills entails no negative consequences for children’s academic, linguistic, or intellectual development” (Cummins, 1998).
- diversity is an asset. Dual language immersion ascribes to additive achievement – honoring academic proficiency in English as necessary for success while also promoting cultural and linguistic diversity as an asset – not a liability. “… students from different ethnic minority and socioeconomic groups and students who have learning challenges can all benefit from these programs, demonstrating levels of L1 proficiency and academic achievement that are at least as high as their peers in mainstream programs;” (Lindholm-Leary and Genesee, 2014, p. 175)
- the challenges of the future will require cross-cultural intelligence. Addressing the economic, academic, and security concerns of the future will require our students to work effectively in multiple cultures and contexts. Students graduating in the 21st century will need to sell to the world, buy from the world, work with international companies, and become part of intercultural teams committed to solving global problems (Center for International Understanding, 2005 in Stewart 2007)
Michigan can expedite the adoption of dual language immersion education by…
- focusing on teacher preparedness. A “Top 10” education begins with “Top 10” teachers. Dual language immersion programs require highly proficient teachers, prepared not only in the subject content areas they teach, but also with native or nearly-native speaker language skills in the target language. Schools need reassurance that there is a pipeline of highly qualified teachers ready to reach our Michigan learners.
- “To provide cognitively stimulating instruction and to promote high levels of bilingual proficiency in students, teachers need a high level of language proficiency in both languages. Clark et al (2002) reported that many of the teachers that were instructing in bilingual programs did not have sufficient Spanish proficiency to participate in college level courses conducted in Spanish” (Lindholm-Leary, 2005).
- “Wong Fillmore and Snow (2002: 19) argue that today’s English and second language and bilingual teachers need ‘better, more intensive, and more coherent preparation in educational linguistics. Similarly, we suggest that before immersion teachers are likely to more effectively teach to the wide array of forms and functions that comprise the immersion language, they will need professional development experiences that introduce them to basic units of language and how these units fit together to create meaning and build discipline-specific knowledge” (Fortune, Tedick, Walker, 2008, p. 88).
- honoring the work of immersion students with an official Michigan Seal of Biliteracy or Multiliteracy. By offering high school graduates the opportunity to earn an official Michigan Seal of Biliteracy or Multiliteracy, Michigan would demonstrate its dedication to a globally competent bilingual and biliterate workforce. Michigan can uphold standards for highly proficient readers, writers, speakers and listeners, while honoring the achievements of biliterate and multiliterate graduates.
- The threshold hypothesis suggests students must attain high levels of proficiency in both languages in order to experience the cognitive and academic benefits of bilingualism (Cummins, 1984).
- 10,000-hour rule: “Deliberate practice is necessary to achieve high levels of expertise (Ericsson et al., 1993…)” (Eaton, S.E., 2012).