Posts By Rebecca Vonderlack-Navarro

An imperative question guiding my work at the Latino Policy Forum is not if all Illinois teachers and educational leadership should be prepared to meet the spectrum of linguistic and cultural diversity in their classrooms, but how to implement plans that improve their linguistic and cultural responsiveness.  This question is motivated by two significant changes in education: newly minted intensified academic standards and a greatly changing student demographic. 

To address this issue of teacher preparedness, part of my ongoing work at the Forum involves convening a pre-service and in-service teacher preparation work group to review, reflect on, and make suggestions to developing a statewide approach to fortify teacher preparation for linguistic and culturally diverse students. 

Dr. Samina Hadi-Tabassum is a... Continue Reading

A vital question guiding my work at the Forum is not if all Illinois teachers and educational leaders should be prepared to meet the spectrum of linguistic and cultural diversity in their classrooms, but how to implement plans that improve their linguistic and cultural responsiveness.  This question is motivated by two significant changes in education: newly minted intensified academic standards and a greatly changing student demographic.  

The advent of the Common Core State Standards heightens the need for all students to master the academic language of the classroom.  For the growing number of English language learners (ELLs), to achieve this requires a new level of expertise for educators on how to support and integrate... Continue Reading

Posted In: Education

As student-of-color demographics reach the “majority-minority” tipping point across the nation, building diversity within the teacher workforce has become increasingly urgent.  In response to that urgency, I’ve begun to develop a database to encourage educators and administrators to consider the myriad of ways to diversify the teacher candidate pool, provide linguistically and culturally responsive pedagogy, and offer rich field experiences in diverse settings. You can find the Teacher Diversity Database on the Latino Policy Forum’s website here.

A growing body of research shows students who have teachers from diverse cultural, ethnic and racial background stand to reap additional benefits from the experience, not just academically, but socially and emotionally as... Continue Reading

Posted In: Leadership, Education

Illinois’ student population is rapidly growing more linguistically and culturally diverse. Close to one in every 4 public school children speak a language other than English in the home, according to Illinois census data.  And the number of students who identify as English Language Learners (ELLs) statewide—now close to one out of every 10 students— has grown an astonishing 83 percent over the last 15 years.  As these students transition into general education classrooms, nearly every teacher in the state will likely be working with ELLs at some point in their careers. 

The increasing diversity of the Illinois student body stands in stark contrast to teacher demographics—largely white, female, and monolingual. ... Continue Reading

Posted In: Educators

While a “majority-minority” student population has long been a reality in Chicago, 2011 marked the first time that minority students were the majority in kindergarten, first, second, and third grade classrooms across all of Illinois. A driving force behind this demographic shift are students who come from immigrant families,  hold a range of native- and English-language abilities, and are adapting to the U.S. school system. 

The United States’ increased use of standardized testing poses significant conundrums for this emerging student population. While there is no shortage of critiques on the overall merits of standardized testing, for those on their way to learning English, the reliability, validity, and fairness of such accountability measures are especially dubious.  After being in U.S. schools... Continue Reading

Posted In: K-3, Education

Illinois is ahead of the curve in promoting educational reforms and supports that value early childhood education.  Relatively nascent advocacy efforts endorse a more expansive continuum approach, especially birth-to-age 8 (or third grade), to ensure that early education benefits are thoughtfully and purposefully carried over into the early grades.  Vital to such discussions are the ways in which such continuum reform efforts could benefit the state’s rapidly growing diverse language learner population.

What is perhaps most striking to me is that if children begin the transition to English before they are well-grounded in their native tongue—generally achieved around the third grade benchmark—it can actually limit their English language development.  English-only approaches (or transitions into English instruction before students have a... Continue Reading

Posted In: Education, K-3
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