Lessons from La Cosecha Dual Language Conference

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Throughout the conference a number of themes stuck out that I wanted to share.PL44JBs6ReiDp3SdaosqbQ

Dual Language Is Everywhere

I assumed that most educators I met would be from the Southwest and New York because those states have bigger populations of Latinos.  One of the biggest surprises was that dual language programs are everywhere!  I met secondary DL teachers from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Illinois, Nebraska, and Virginia, in addition to educators from countries like Costa Rica where Spanish is the dominant language.  Dual language is truly all over because (not surprisingly) the students we serve are everywhere.

A map of where conference participants were from

Qualified Bilingual Teachers Are Nowhere

Every program, no matter how established it is or where it is located, is having trouble finding qualified teachers.  See this post I wrote about paying bilingual teachers more to see what some districts are doing to find bilingual educators.  Many districts are starting “grow your own” programs that will help their current employees who are bilingual get teacher training or their bilingual license.  And we can’t forget our own students.  How cool would it be to have a student from your DL program come back and be a DL teacher!

Dual Language Leads To Better Student Outcomes

We all know this already, but it’s always nice to hear that what we do is the best program for our students.  Over and over I heard from educators and researchers like Jim Cummins that DL programs lead to higher achievement rates, higher graduation rates and a more positive sense of identity for our traditionally marginalized students.

Secondary Dual Language Is Still New

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I heard from multiple speakers about the paucity of research specific to secondary DL programs.  Again, no surprise, but as I struggle with knowing what to do and where to look for support, it is reassuring to know that I’m not finding much because it actually doesn’t exist yet.  Most of the “flagship” programs that were presenting at La Cosecha had only had their high school program for four to six years.  These are the most developed programs in the country and they’ve only just started graduating students.  We need to remember that we are doing groundbreaking work and learning as we go should be expected.

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There Is Finally A Resource Specific To Secondary Programs

Dual language advocates Drs. Virginia Collier and Wayne Thomas published a book that was just released in November 2018 about Secondary dual-language programs.  It has essays from researchers, admin and teachers at some of these more developed secondary programs like the ones in Albuquerque and Omaha.  I can’t wait to read it!  I scored a copy at the conference but it should be available on their website soon.

No Two Programs Are Alike

Each district and school has a unique combination of factors that affects how its program is set up.  Some programs are almost 100% Latino students while others are closer to 50-50.  Some include native speaking newcomers.  Schools with lots of bilingual teachers can more easily add content classes like science and math taught in Spanish.  Some programs are in big cities and others are in smaller towns or more isolated areas.  All of these factors will affect how a district or school organizes its program.

Some aspects that were common to all programs were the inclusion of a Spanish language arts class and at least one other subject taught in Spanish at each grade level.  Often this was social studies, but in some of the bigger programs science, math or electives were offered in Spanish.

Not surprisingly AP Spanish Language and AP Spanish Literature are vital to the programs I heard about, but there was no consensus on when students should take these courses.  Some districts have students take AP Language in 9th or even 8th grade, others in 10th or 11th.  Some schools have International Baccalaureate (IB) and take AP before IB.

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Seal of Biliteracy

All the teachers that I heard from have programs where the Seal of Biliteracy is the crowning achievement of 12 years of participation and hard work in a Dual Language program.  Again, each school and state is different, so the requirements vary.  Many have two levels of achievement, a regular Seal and a distinguished or honors Seal.  Some were based on the classes taken and GPA, others on exam scores from AAPPL, STAMP or AP tests.  Some had community service requirements and some required presentations.  My favorite idea came from Albuquerque High School, where they require students to do a bilingual portfolio and 30+ minute presentation to bilingual community members reflecting on their education and their plans for the future.  What an awesome way to show what they’ve learned and get the community involved!

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Overall I’m coming back from La Cosecha energized and excited, with a renewed commitment to making my school’s DLI program the best it can be.  And also with a lot of chile peppers 🙂

Have you been to La Cosecha?  Comment and let me know below.

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