In light of the country's ongoing shift to a minority-majority nation, a UT professor was asked about the education of immigrant youths in public schools.
Texas was recently added to the list of "minority-majority" U.S. states. This term describes a state with a racial composition of less than 50 percent white. Along with New Mexico, California, Hawaii, and Washington D.C., the U.S. Census Bureau declared Texas as part of this unique group at 55.2 percent.
In a recent article by the Huffington Post, University of Texas professor and founding member of the Forum for Education and Democracy, Angela Valenzuela, was interviewed about this new demographic and its effect on education.
Bilingual learners are expected to account for all the growth in the workforce within the next 40 years. While giving her opinions on what policy changes schools should have to impose on these bilingual learners and their instructors, Valenzuela made it a point to address bilingualism as a strength, not as a weakness.
While the learning methods between students vary, there are both major benefits and weaknesses that these students face in a biliterate environment. Research has shown that the benefits of being bilingual go much deeper than just knowing another language.
Valenzuela says that one of the best ways to improve and keep these students in an upward success rate is to "monitor the student progress, by establishing effective and valid methods of data collection that enables schools to monitor bilingual learners' progress at all points of their education."
Being able to look back and focus on particular strength and weaknesses provides hard proof of the progress a student has made. It also allows for instructors to target specific areas where a student might need more help.
Along with that, she also says that to see true success rates, equal opportunity needs to be enforced. She gave the example of how it's "difficult to generate advanced conceptual understanding from bilingual learners and LEP (Limited English Proficiency) students when they are being tested or taught in a language in which they are not proficient."
She also encourages the government to provide support to teachers, schools, and districts that have a high amount of bilingual learners. With a shared opportunity being dispersed to everyone, the chances of a biliterate educational atmosphere proving thriving would be higher than one that isn't.
Dr. Valenzuela is very specific when she describes students as bilingual learners. The more common term is English Language Learner (ELL). But she feels that this title describes one who doesn't know much or any English, and is only willing to learn English, making this a weakness. Bilingual Learner implies learning the information in both languages, making it a strength.