Our education system had been failing our emergent bilingual students since long before the pandemic. How can teachers better serve the emergent bilingual students coming back to the classroom and build their agency as they become proficient? In this discussion, we cover how to recognize the assets emergent bilingual students bring with them, how to get back into the groove of academic language, and how to make room for both language and communication with English language learners. Our guests are three experts from NWEA (who all happen to be emergent bilingual speakers): Teresa Krastel (Spanish solutions lead), Angela Johnson (research scientist), and Adam Withycombe (content design and development).
Jacob: Welcome to The Continuing Educator. I'm your host, Jacob Bruno. As a reminder, this season, we're examining the topic of building student agency. This mark's episode five in our journey this season. We've had some dynamic conversations from speaking with teachers about what is student agency, looking at culturally responsive teaching and how that can enable student agency, talking about giving students a say, getting them involved in the teaching and learning process, the assessment process. And last week we spoke about student agency and the disciplines. It's been a great season so far. I'm excited for our conversation today. We'll be talking about building student agency with emergent bilinguals. I'm joined with a great group of guests. I'll say before I begin, they're all doctors, which is wonderful. Doctor, doctor, doctor. And they are all actually emergent bilingual speakers. I'm so excited to get into this conversation. I'd like to welcome Dr. Angela Johnson to the show. Angela is a research scientist at NWEA where her research interests include education policy and importantly, where that intersects with multilingual students. Angela, welcome to the show. Tell us a little bit about your experience, both teaching and being an emergent bilingual speaker.
Dr. Johnson: Thanks, Jacob. Thanks for having me. It's great to be here. I came to the United States when I was 10 years old and I studied English in a bilingual classroom. My native language is Chinese. I learned Japanese before I learned English. So English is my third language. Being in schools in the United States wasn't easy at first. There was a lot of work to do because I was trying to catch up with English as well as Math and Science and all those different subjects. So I identify with multilingual students and I really care about them and care about how our schools are serving them. I'm really glad to be here because this is a topic that's very close to my heart.
Jacob: We're so glad you're here, Angela. I can't wait to hear both your experience and what that's brought to your work and certainly what it'll bring to our conversation. Our next guest is Dr. Adam Withycombe. Adam is the manager of content design and development at NWEA. His interests really focused around the intersection of educational measurement, pedagogy and policy for special populations. Adam, welcome to the show. Same question for you. Give us a bit of a sense of your teaching background, your educational background, and where that intersects with your experience as an emergent bilingual speaker.
Dr. Withycombe: Oh, thanks Jacob. It's great to be here. I started my Spanish journey in high school as a second language, part of the two year high school requirements. And through the luxury of some fantastic Spanish teachers, I carried through four years in high school and transitioned into college, did a study abroad and I progressed through sort of that gauntlet of learning a second language, I guess. I use that as a major in college and out of college, and through my teaching program, I found myself in transitional bilingual programs as a third and fifth grade teacher in Oregon and Washington. I put about nine years in the classroom and now I'm nine years into a career at NWEA.
Jacob: That's great. Adam, thank you for being here. Really excited to get you in the conversation, but before we do, I'd like to welcome our final guest, Dr. Teresa Krastel. Teresa, you're the Spanish solutions lead at NWEA. Now, your team is responsible for development of all NWEA Spanish products. I think it's important to note, you're a linguist by trait. You specialize in second language acquisition, Hispanic linguistics, dialectology, which is a new ology for me. Welcome. I know you're interested in language policy, funds of knowledge, trans languaging and multilingual spaces. Tell us a little bit about your journey briefly, if you can, to hear where education and...Tell us a little bit about your journey, if you can, to now where your experienced in education and especially your... Oh my goodness, Jacob. Tell us a little bit, if you can, Teresa, about your background and experience, especially your experience as an emergent bilingual speaker and how that informs your work.
Dr. Krastel: Hi Jacob. Hi everybody. It's great to be here. Well, I am from a two language home. My parents are immigrants and they came from the Philippines back in the 60s. So I grew up with Tagalog and English in the home. So the Philippines is very different than other countries in that it's completely bilingual with English. So speakers speak the local language or the high dialect and English as well. And they learn in school and in its American school system. So when my parents came, they were bilingual. So they made the conscious choice to teach us English and speak in English to us. But Tagalog was always present in the home, although I am not a native speaker of Tagalog in any sense of the word, I do understand all of it. So coming from a bilingual home and also being very conscious of issues of race during that time, it was the time of the Vietnam War when they came from the Philippines. There was a lot of intersectionality and consciousness of who I was as a two language child in a predominantly white setting in school. So those kind of shaped my view of what language means, what culture means. And I think that I had an easy time, to be honest, with languages in school. Spanish came very easily to me. It's very present in the evolution of Tagalog. So that's how my path to Spanish came. So I have a doctorate in Hispanic linguistics and I also speak German. So I have multiple languages in my life at all times. And I think when you're primed for language and it's easy for you, it becomes something, an object of study and passion. And so that's how I kind of ended up here. I did teach at university and in high school, traditional Spanish language classes and also ESL to adults. So I've had kind of a long career with a breadth of different types of students throughout. So then I ended up here at NWEA and I'm happy to be a part of the team that can provide one solution to a small segment of the emergent bilingual population.
Jacob: Teresa I'm so thankful for your sharing and for all three of you. I'm so excited about all three of you being on this panel, because just as I've listened to you now, the experiences you bring Angela first as a Chinese speaker and then to Japanese, and then later to English. Teresa, your experience, having a bilingual home, English and Tagalog. And Adam, your experience is more representative of mine, I would say. Just my introduction to foreign language was in high school as part of my foreign language requirement. The difference with you is that it caught fire and became a central part of not only your personal, but your professional life as well. So as listeners are engaged in this conversation with us, there's a lot from all three of your experience sets that we can draw inferences from, we can connect to. And I guess I wanna start with my first question. First, quick observation, this term, emergent bilingual, as I hear your stories, it occurs to me that this emergent bilingual is by necessity asset-based. It doesn't speak of emergent bilingual as a deficit, but really speaks to the potential of students. Teresa, am I on track there? And how would you kind of parse apart the different terms we use to describe emergent bilinguals or language learners in our classrooms?
Dr. Krastel: Yes, you are on track. Emergent bilingual is actually the term that is currently being floated. It has been historically in policy, the term has been English language learner, limited English proficient learner, and just English learner. And now recently emergent bilingual, and then looking forward likely to go towards multilingual learner. Most states recognize at a federal level the use of the term English learner, English language learner. The issue with that is that it does not recognize the asset of having a native language. These kids all arrive having already acquired native language. So emergent bilinguals come to the United States having already acquired a native language. So when they come here to be termed English language learner, it does not recognize the assets and the funds of knowledge that they bring with them. Each student comes with what we call intercultural capital.
These are all of the things, how to interact with people, how far to stand,. Do we kiss, kiss when we talk? Do I use a formal pronoun with you? Do I not use a formal pronoun with you? These all are inherent in whatever native language that they've acquired before they came depending on the features of that language. So to call a student an English language learner, it's ignoring or not acknowledging that essential piece of them, which is more than half of their identity is their full identity when they arrive to the United States and enter into a school setting. So to acknowledge these properties as an asset puts the child first, it does not center their experience around English as being the only, or the correct path toward learning, toward literacy, towards achieving. So because intelligence and achievement are independent of language, you can be intelligent and achieve no matter what language you speak. We acknowledge those natural properties that a child comes with to school.
Jacob: I love that. Adam, anything you'd wanna add to what Teresa just shared?
Dr. Withycombe: I think when we first started seeing the terms limited English proficient show up the 1960s, 70s, was really from an accountability and civil rights movement that really ensuring that students had access to an education. And that that title was sort of the title of the time that fit. And when I look at that title of limited English proficient, the first thing I see is limited. That you've classified or categorized a student as limited. And even the progression then into the 2000's, when we started using English learner, English language learner, the first thing that you see right off the bat is the word English. And that primacy of English is sort of...again, it sets the context or the frame from which we view these students. Whereas, emergent bilingual and multilingual learner, is where I hope that we're going, sort of looks at the multilingual as the value, as the student first. So moving from labels and categorization into students, I think is a positive change.
Jacob: I think that's right, and I wanna take a slight 'bird walk' if I can, maybe it's not a 'bird walk,' but connecting a bridge to the theme of our season. Even the term emergent bilingual, and it's certainly what you said, Adam, around this centrality of English in the EL taxonomy is kind of limiting what it means. But even the phrase emergent bilingual starts to get to this idea of, to Teresa's earlier point, the funds of knowledge students bring with them and this journey we're all on to achieve, to master, to recognize our potential. And so enter there emergent bilingualism to be the fertile soil from which we could help students develop their own agency, recognize the agency, just as Teresa, again, called out the things students bring with them culturally, linguistically. So I'll pause. Angela, does that notion resonate with you? This idea of emergent bilingualism is ripe ground for us to focus on building student agency?
Dr. Johnson: Yeah, I can speak from personal experience. When I started school in the United States, I was often frustrated because when the teacher would ask, you know, me to explain a concept in English or answer a question in English, all I could think about was, "If I could do this in Chinese, I would dominate." And I'm willing to vet that a lot of our students feel this way, "Just because I cannot explain a concept in English or speak English fluently doesn't mean I'm not understanding or doesn't mean, you know, I'm not competent. I'm just waiting for the vocabulary to develop, the grammar to develop in English, but I am fully capable of the academic achievement that schools often focus on."
Jacob: What a terrific testimony. I wonder if, Teresa and then Adam, you have a similar viewpoint from your experience learning language and what that was able to feed to you with, or without your teachers help in kind of recognizing your own efficacy, your own agency in your learning path.
Dr. Krastel: I think for me, and this is also in the research, there's this third space that's kind of just now being recognized, is this trans languaging space where your languages comprise one resource, not three languages, but three languages in one resource pool. So if I [foreign language] I can say it, if you speak that language too. It's [foreign language] but I can switch in and out, but if you speak that language, you have the same set of resource. And we make meaning together in this act of negotiation because we have a similar set of resources. Dialects differ a little bit, but I can have this action of trans languaging, moving in and out within one unified system of language that mixes my language experience as plural to be able to make my meaning, to give myself the agency, and to empower my communication to get a point across or to show achievement or to show intelligence, that the task then is for the teacher to acknowledge this third space, regardless of whether you speak the language or not, to allow trans languaging to happen, to allow for students to empower themselves by the use of their native languages, the use of their one system of language or languages to make meaning, to access knowledge, to learn new things.
So this is emerging, this field of study, and it's exciting. It's exciting for our kids who maybe are quiet because they don't want to say the words or they don't wanna hear themselves pronounce strange things, or they don't want to fail. Even though they may think they know the information, as Angela just said. So to be able to have a vehicle through which you can express knowledge and is accepted, that's agency.
Dr. Withycombe: I wanna chime in to Angela's experience. Similarly, I find that my use of Spanish is clunky. It's somewhat convoluted and I have to work hard to get out the concepts, the message that I'm trying to say in Spanish. It takes work for me to communicate in a way that it doesn't in English. At the same time as I was learning Spanish, I learned more about the English language because of learning Spanish than I did through my own English classes in high school. And, so it was sort of these hooks, these language transfer, language acquisition principles that, how can I use Spanish, my less proficient language to learn something about my native language, English. And conversely, how can I use my ability to communicate in English even when I'm in a Spanish situation and sort of recognizing that while I sort of have these two named language things, I really have sort of one repertoire of language that I try and dig into, and I can leverage that repertoire kind of at use in whatever situation I need.
Jacob: This is so fascinating. Thank you each for sharing your lived experience. I'm left wondering, selfishly, I'm a monolingual teacher and I feel almost embarrassed saying that, but I know I'm certainly not alone in the K-12 space. And I know that I have not served my emergent bilingual or emergent multilingual students well. How can I...I'd love to go round-robin if we can, and this time we'll start with you Adam, and we'll go alphabetically, Adam, Angela, Teresa. What are one or two suggestions you could share that the practicing educators can implement to capitalize not only on the multilingual students funds of knowledge but at the same time, to build their sense of agency and efficacy? Adam, we'll start with you.
Dr. Withycombe: Yeah, I think I have two. One, from the teacher perspective and from the student perspective. From a teacher perspective, showing interest in the kid I think is a huge piece and understanding the language and culture they come from, and whether you speak that language or not, Google translate is a fantastic tool to be able to reach in and communicate and understand things. I was a reading teacher, and so I'm interested in figurative language, which ironically is one of the most complicated things to understand when learning a second language, is non-literal meanings of words and phrases. So the idea of figurative language exists in all sorts of languages. And so if you can tap into examples of figurative language in a student's native language, you don't need to know them, but you can represent them.
You can connect those such that when you're talking about figurative language in English, you have a handle, you have a lever that you can use to bring along and focus then on kind of the content. From the student perspective, again, with figurative language, I'd like to think that the classroom should be the practice auditorium. It should be the music studio. It should be the football field. It should be the place where practice happens and such that the content becomes the vehicle or the medium through which communication and language practice happens. And I think that's true of monolingual English students as well, is that if we shifted the way that we talked and wrote instructional objectives and focused on what are the communication goals for the class to understand or communicate your understanding about fractions, communicate your understanding about figurative language, that we might actually show that all students kind of perform better and not just the emergent bilingual student.
Jacob: That's so rich. So again, showing interest in the students, letting them understand, and feel, and recognize the value you see and what they're bringing to the classroom. And then, if I'm hearing you correctly, communicating to all students, that, "This is our opportunity to practice with language, with academic language to demonstrate our learning trajectories." I love the image that you're painting. And that's why I just wanted to translate that back to teacher actions, right? Being intentional about setting the foundation, the environment in which students are practicing with language, developing language and academic language at the same time, is that fair?
Dr. Withycombe: It is. As we talk about the four modes of language, of reading, writing, speaking, and listening, it's unpacking the content standards for what kind of language requirements are needed for a student to demonstrate their understanding and then provide rich opportunities to authentically practice those forms of language.
Jacob: Angela, what ideas do you have to share with educators today?
Dr. Johnson: Yeah, I've had the privilege of working closely with schools and teachers and district administrators as a researcher and also as a volunteer. I love volunteering in schools and especially in bilingual classrooms. One summer I visited a high school that was offering summer programs to bilingual learners. And what I saw the teacher do was just fantastic. So the first thing that I saw that was great was the teacher was utilizing the greatest asset in our classroom. That is the students themselves. So students were able to help each other even if the teacher does not speak the students home language fluently, for example, the student would ask. 'So and so, how do you say this word in Spanish?" And the more fluent English speakers in the classroom would be able to translate the word from English to Spanish and vice versa for students whose English proficiency might be a little bit lower. Maybe they just came from another country. So the students are able to help each other develop language proficiency, which is amazing.
The second thing the teacher did, which I really loved was utilizing literature from other countries that students can relate to and read in their home language. For example, the teacher had copies of House on Mango Street in both Spanish and English. And students were able to read the Spanish version first, before they read the English. That way their comprehension really increases after they can access the material in their home language. And they were engaged and they loved all the activities because it was in their language, they were being affirmed and they just really enjoyed being in that classroom room. So, you know, these are just activities and approaches that expert teachers have shown me. And I've really appreciated learning from visiting those classrooms.
Jacob: Yeah, that's great, Angela. This notion, you know, we've talked so far a bit about the funds of knowledge, what students bring for their own learning journeys, but you remind us that the environment that we create for students, that it's not just the teacher, that's responsible for empowering student agency and growth and mastery, but that students are powerful resources, in fact, natural resources for one another as well. That's beautiful. Teresa, what would you add to the conversation?
Dr. Krastel: They covered it all. It was all great. I would say, mine are a little more language-based because they covered the classroom-based. I love what you said, Angela, about the little linguist, everyone's a little linguist, little expert, and then they could express that knowledge outward. I would say, as the teacher, there are ways to make the language of the classroom rich. It is well known that home language is a lot richer than school language. The language of school is blank question, "Does he like this or does he like this?" "Is that a yes//' "No." Whereas at home, there's this whole richness around a context whether it's a family-based context or a situational-based context. At school, it's school, there's books, there's the topic that we're looking at. So the questions that tend to be asked are more, yes, no, or just single response.
So enriching the language of the way you speak in class is one. To be able to provide kind of more than just display questions. For example, if a student makes an error, it's really teachery to want to correct the error. We don't say it like that. We say it like this, but maybe recasting it. So, "Oh, you did well on a test,' as opposed to, if the child says,"I did good on a test.'' "Oh, you did well on a test, did you?" So you don't overtly correct the error, but you are correcting it in a recast and modeling what the actual way to say the phrases in English. So kind of by modeling richer, lengthier sentences, the child will get more than just regular teacher talk.
Also I would say to not be afraid or anxious that you don't speak the languages in the class. The main role would be to be a facilitator and the activities that Angela... Let me pause. The activities that Angela described are perfect opportunities for facilitating, using the resources that are right in front of you so that they can learn from each other. I think those are great ways to empower the student. And there's one that's really great, and it's really linguisticy. So I'm gonna put my linguistic hat on and it's to use what students already know in terms of communication. So when we learn a language, we also learn the behaviors around the use of those language. So for example, I know what to do when I pick up a telephone and have to get my needs met.
There is a greeting, there is a greeting from the other side, there's my request. There's a wait for information. There's the information. There's maybe a thank you, and then there's a goodbye. So those are called scripts and frames. I know through that script, how to behave and what language to expect in that exchange. So teachers can maximize those kinds of scripts and frames that children know because they say hello to people in their language, because they've returned a library book before, or because they've bought something at the store, there is an expectation of behavior and language that accompanies that behavior that teachers can maximize to enrich the English language learning experience.
Jacob: This area is so rich, Teresa, and I appreciate you giving us some more tactical or practical things we can do in the classroom. And thanks to all three of you for that. I think about these elements of instruction, and setting the conditions that certainly the ideas, instructionally planning, the resources, even that you named,Teresa, around, scripts and frames and the like that can be useful in instructing academic content areas. I wanna pivot for a second to assessing, because often I have a rubric or I have very clear outcomes, especially where language is part of how we describe. To your earlier point, Angela, boy, if this was in Chinese, you know, this student could dominate, but I don't speak Chinese. I only speak English and what are some considerations again, we don't want to, and a lot of times assessment can demotivate students if they know they know, but I can't see that they know the topics given, you know, any potential emergent bilingual constraints. What are some suggestions you have and/or considerations for assessing academic knowledge, academic language and the like, in the classroom. Angela, do you mind if we start with you?
Dr. Johnson: Yeah, Jacob, that's a really good question. I think the first consideration is, the purpose of assessing is for the student to show us just exactly what they know, right? So that we can help clarify any misunderstandings or we can affirm what they have learned. And I would say, the focus of assessment is accurately measuring what students know. And if the student is not able to show, to demonstrate their skills or their capabilities, because there is a language barrier, then it's hard for the teacher and for the school to recognize what the student has already accomplished, know what the student needs. So I think a key point here is to be able to support the student in demonstrating his or her knowledge. And that could come in the form of accommodations in assessments, right? Maybe if we're assessing Math, we could provide the student with a language dictionary, right? That way, you know, it doesn't feel like cheating because the student is able to demonstrate his or her mathematical knowledge without, you know, English getting in the way. So I think it's important to consider what the student needs in order to show us what they can do and what kind of accommodations the school can provide to the student in order to do so.
Jacob: That is truly helpful. I wonder, Adam or Teresa, how would you expand on that? And what other advice would you give to teachers in the... Certainly there's the summative assessment of all students, but thinking about that formative day-to-day, the feedback as Angela said, to students as well.
Dr. Krastel: I think there's also the question of fairness and access. So if a student cannot access the information on an assessment, is that fair? So providing native language assessment gives us a more accurate portrait of what that student can do. And that's fair. You know, some people might say, "Oh, it's not fair. This is an, you know, an English only state," but how can we truly know because we are using language to test language? So there's already a confounding principle there. So to provide more access to a language that they already speak is already asset-based.
Dr. Withycombe: And I think the thing that I would add to this is to recognize the limitations of an assessment. I mean, testing is already a proxy for achievement, a proxy for growth. We get as close as we can. And, for any test from which you're not proficient in the language, you've added a new variable into accurately measuring that ability. And so just two questions that we get fairly regularly that are really hard to answer are, how much English is needed to meaningfully participate in an English assessment? And what's the impact on my scores if I don't have that level of proficiency? Neither of those can we address head on, and so we talk about, well, use multiple points of data, use English and Spanish results. Use your formative classroom information to support and kind of build a portfolio of evidence around a student rather than kind of these singular data points that have the potential to not capture fully students abilities or skills.
Jacob: These are very helpful suggestions, reminders, directional elements for educators in certainly teaching and then assessing all students, but certainly emergent bilinguals. I am curious because you bring up this notion which ties right into grading, right? And, you know, grading is an area as well, where there's a lot of work. We're better than we used to be and yet we are still disparate in our practice as practitioners, and that may vary from school to school or district to district if they have standards-based or a standards reference grading happening and the like, but I have seen in my classrooms and I felt my own teaching practice. I felt not having had this conversation with you years ago. Students lose heart, my emergent bilingual kids because I don't have, or didn't have the insight or the tools or the resources where I had multiple languages and seven preps in a day, you know, to every assessment opportunity, even in that portfolio, to reflect back to them something that engendered their belief in themselves and their belief that they could, and so any advice you have there, or reflections from your own experience of, when this is not done well, the impact on kids, belief and self-engagement and school engagement in their learning?
Dr. Withycombe: I can take a stab at it. I think, if you know your focus, Angela sort of mentioned it earlier, around the inability to communicate our understanding in English, is if we can focus on the content of the response without then double grading or double weighting the spelling and conventions. So that we're conflating a quality writing assessment because it doesn't meet grammar and spelling rules. But the contents are good. So finding opportunities to separate those two, that if content is the piece that you're really interested in and whether they're demonstrating understanding, what matters what language it was presented in, or really, or if it does matter that it's in English, it's judging the quality of the content separate from the mechanics, the spelling, the conventions, the rules. And looking at opportunities for, "All right. You've got your ideas, now let's model those, let's frame those, let's shape those." So taking Teresa's ideas and saying, "This is how we can shape this into a response that works in English." And leveraging group writing. I think that there's a lot of people that, "Nope, the kid has to do it themself. Students have to do their own work." And I think that that just sets up the stage for failure, in the sense that we put a student in a position that they can't meet those expectations without guidance, without support. So finding opportunities to focus on the construct that you're interested in and then providing linguistic support to get a student there.
Jacob: That's very, very helpful. Angela, Teresa, anything you wanna add?
Dr. Krastel: I think I'm gonna echo what Adam said a while ago. Communication and communication goals. No matter what the lesson is, no matter what the topic is, always have a communication goal, whether that's a writing goal or whether that's an expressive speaking goal, pair those with your content goals. So of course, I can't think of an example. Let's say you're looking at metaphors, so maybe your communication goal is the use of the verb, to be, or something like that. You would pair it with a grammatical feature or even a communication feature of how we communicate with each other. So you're kind of teaching them that content is not separate from language, and there are ways that you can....hang on, let me pause, content is not separate from language, and you can develop both at the same time. So it's a yes, and to the value of both.
Jacob: That's a great insight. Teresa, can I ask a follow up? I wonder as students are learning a new language at large, is there also an element here of, intentionality and if so, what would your suggestion be where academic language within a discipline comes into play and the intentionality with which we should both instruct and assess a plan, instruct and assess around those things?
Dr. Krastel: I would say absolutely. It's all about the input, right? Make that input comprehensible, you know, and then have them work with it. It might get messy. I think that there's this tendency that teachers want, you know, "It has to be perfect." It doesn't, let them tell the story, let them express, let it be messy because language learning is messy. You know, you might have that kind of learner who just doesn't wanna speak unless it's absolutely perfect. And then you had that learner who's just blurting everything out no matter what. It's all about playing with the language, getting messy, getting there and figuring it out. Now, based around content, allow the messiness. Why not? You know, why not? If you're not gonna grade for the conventions anyway, grade for the ideas. And then communication with the student is the key, let the student tell the story.
Jacob: It's helpful. Thank you. Angela, the last thought on this topic.
Dr. Johnson: Yeah, I totally agree with Teresa. I wanna say, you know, even writing assignments don't have to be perfect, right? It's always a product in development. So why not allow the student to write down a phrase in Spanish if they don't know how to say it in English, right? If the teacher can speak Spanish, then maybe help the student learn how to say that in English. Even if not, maybe a classmate can help out at a later stage. Assignments don't have to be perfect. In class communication does not have to be perfect. If the student can just blurt it out in their home language, maybe, you know, someone else can jump in and we can all learn something.
Jacob: That's terrific and inspirational. I wanna pause for a second. I realized that maybe I should have said this at the beginning, or at least brought up the topic with the three of you. We haven't really talked about the scope of emergent bilinguals in particularly the U.S. classrooms, right? So we know for the last several decades, the numbers of students that are emergent bilingual has been expanding and not just been in, you know, certain locations, it's really universal, but let me pause and check my own assumption there. Do you guys have statistics and/or data that you can share with us about the size of this population and the importance in terms of our intentional service to them?
Dr. Johnson: Yeah, I think in order to answer this question, we may have to go back to the old name, that is English learner, because that's the classification that's used at the federal level. So the most recent statistic we have is that there are just under 5 million students who wear the English learner label and that is about 10% of the student population in the U.S. public K-12 system. And in districts with a lot of immigrant students, this can be as many as 30% to 50% of the students. It's a significant portion. And, I would definitely argue that it's a student population that deserves our attention.
Dr. Withycombe: I would add that if we extend to the emergent bilingual population beyond just the English learner population. So English learners are identified typically through their home language survey first where they identify a language other than English spoken in the home. And they're followed up with an English language proficiency major, in which case they aren't proficient. The number of students that actually identify as speaking language, other than English at home is closer to 23%. So when we talk about 10% of all students are English learners, there's a much larger linguistic base going on in families and homes, such that NCES data has actually suggested that by 2025, we'll be looking at closer to 25% of all students are English learners. And if we count for students for whom they can't answer anything other than English on the home language surveys, we talk about African American vernacular English, as we talk about regional dialects, as we talk about regionalisms, pigeon English some of these world Englishes. We're actually probably dealing with 30% to 40% of the student population that really could fall into that emergent bilingual category.
Jacob: Those numbers carry with them a real drive and importance for us as educators to do everything we can to continue learning and serving these students to the best of our abilities and refining those abilities certainly in our individual reflective practice and with the colleagues around us. You have been in this space, all three of you for quite some time, you know, all your lives really. What are you excited about? You've given a lot of ideas, considerations and the like for educators today. As you look to the next 5 to 10 years, what do you see as the most important thing educators can do to inform and improve their practice, to help this population and really all of our students build student agency, get to growth, get to mastery in the K-12 system? Teresa, do you mind if we start with you?
Dr. Krastel: I think for me, it's a mindset question. To be open to undefined things in your classroom, ambiguous things, chaos at times. I was a teacher and I did like things very linear, and I did like things very well defined, but this is not a well defined space. It's messy, it's ambiguous, it changes from day to day. For me, the impact of doing something is far much more valuable than the impact of not doing something. So I think what excites me most is this opportunity to acknowledge finally, these gifts that these children bring to our classroom in our classrooms and not centering English as the correct only path forward to knowledge and understanding between cultures. For me, that's very exciting.
Jacob: Couldn't agree more. Angela.
Dr. Johnson: I think what I'm really looking forward to is this shift from looking at students achievement scores, to looking at students growth and progress. Research up to this point has really been dominated by this idea of the achievement gap between English speakers and English learners. And,what's really exciting is that that is changing, that is shifting. So I would love to see more research on how much students grow and I've done a few studies myself in this space. I'm looking at, you know, changes in how much students, looking at how much students learn over the course of the year. And I'm finding that emergent bilingual learners can learn just as much as monolingual or fluent English speakers. And it's this idea of growth that I think should be driving our policy, should be driving our practice. And that's what I'm really looking forward to.
Jacob: It's very inspirational. And I look forward to the research as well, and, really thank you for bringing that up here and certainly the work you're gonna continue to do. Adam, last word to you. What are you looking forward to in the next 5 to 10 years in this space?
Dr. Withycombe: As much as I appreciate kind of a need for accountability and making sure that students aren't falling through the cracks, what I like is that we are starting to value the whole student. We're sort of taking this human centered design approach to where it's the kid that matters and it's not just a student as a recipient of instruction, but it's agency, it's teachers being advocates for students and helping students move. And I think the assessment industry is, if I do my job, right, I'm providing information, that's valuable to a teacher to make informed decisions and to improve opportunities and outcomes for kids.
Jacob: That's a beautiful sentiment. And I think a great one to close on. You all have provided so much insight. Certainly deepened my knowledge, and I know of our listeners as well around the importance of attending to emergent bilingual needs in the classroom and the power. As you say, Adam, putting kids at the center of the teaching, learning, and assessing process for their own agency, for their own growth. We all win when we get that right. Thank you all for joining us today. Thank you.
Dr. Withycombe: Thanks. Good to see you.
Dr. Johnson: Thanks for having us.
Dr. Krastel: Thanks Jacob.
Jacob: And thank you all for listening. Remember to follow our blog, Teach Learn Grow, for more insights, ideas, and resources to support your continued growth. And finally, subscribe to our podcast if you haven't already. We look forward to the next conversation where we will examine the topic of accessibility in student agency. We'll see you next time on the "Continuing Educator."