Encyclopedia provides comprehensive look at bilingual education

October 28, 2008

A new encyclopedia of well-researched, non-technical articles edited by Arizona State University Professor Josué M. González is being hailed as a first-stop reference for accepted knowledge in the controversial and dynamic field of bilingual education. 

González is a professor of educational leadership and policy studies with the Mary Lou Fulton College of Education and an internationally known expert in bilingual education. When contacted two years ago by Sage Reference books to edit the 2008 Encyclopedia of Bilingual Education, he said he realized the two-volume project provided an opportunity to compile the best research on the highly politicized and often emotionally charged subject of bilingual education. Download Full Image

“I wanted to get this story out. It’s not ambiguous. It’s not apolitical. The field itself is very political, so we wanted to reflect that,” said González, who also is director of the Southwest Center for Education Equity and Language Diversity within the Fulton College. The center focuses on policy analysis and scholarship in bilingual and dual-language education. 

The encyclopedia links bilingual education to its many areas of direct socio-cultural impact, including issues of language and literacy, diversity, education equity, and the effects of shifting demographics across the United States. 

“This reference will be a valuable tool for anyone seeking the research behind bilingual education and the implications of current national policies on student achievement among English language learners,” said George W. Hynd, senior vice provost for education and innovation and dean of the Fulton College.  “Josué González has written and lectured extensively in the field, and his work with the Southwest Center for Education Equity and Language Diversity is crucial as immigration and bilingual education issues continue to rise to the political forefront in the U.S.”

González selected expert authors as contributors for the project from a wide range of disciplines including applied linguistics, politics, civil rights, history and education. He also developed a unique journalistic style, using essays rather than traditional encyclopedic entries, as a way to communicate with lay readers. It is designed to be a first-stop library reference with cross-references to related works and bibliographic entries of more in-depth research. In total, the encyclopedia contains over 300 articles and 1,000 pages of text. 

González, an early innovator in bilingual and dual-language education, served as the first director of the Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Language Affairs during former President Jimmy Carter’s administration. He has served on several advisory commissions engaged in the field and has been President of the National Association for Bilingual Education.

Bilingual education has figured prominently throughout González’ life. He was born in Texas within walking distance of the Mexican border and, because he had Spanish-speaking teachers, he assumed bilingualism was the norm.

“I’ve been bilingual all my life, so essentially I’ve been in this field for more than 60 years,” he noted. Throughout his career as a language teacher, academic researcher and leader of discourse about bilingual education policies, González has questioned the role of language in education. He has seen school curricula shift from bilingual programs that inspired students and teachers to succeed academically to the implementation of laws such as Proposition 203 (English for Children), which made bilingual education illegal in Arizona, and criminalized undocumented immigration to the United States. 

“At ASU we have an outstanding body of expertise in the field. We are loaded for bear at a time when the demand for bilingual education teachers has waned somewhat, at least in Arizona. Other states are still looking for bilingual education teachers and have a rising demand,” he said. “The families who benefit from bilingual education tend not to be politically active or even speak English, so they don’t have a way of expressing their interest in having the program to serve their children.”  

González argues that the role of language in education supports human development, intergroup relations and respect for other cultures. Yet he believes the public doesn’t grasp the depth of professional knowledge underscoring bilingual education because it is so highly politicized that it becomes distorted as anti-American. He also said journalists have written narrowly on the subject and haven’t fully informed the public, which is why he envisioned his audience for the encyclopedia as a young journalist assigned to write a deadline piece on bilingual education.

González said indigenous languages disappear every year and linguists have determined that English, Chinese and Spanish are the top three languages in the world. He said the Internet has had a profound effect on language choice because more and more people use English to navigate the World Wide Web. 

“In the American Southwest we already use two of these languages widely, but English is pandemic. It’s the language of the universe. We’re beaming it into outer space. The pervasive nature of English will continue because it’s all over the world, but we’re the only country that believes things would be better if we only concentrated on English to the exclusion of all other languages. It’s a very retrograde view,” he said.

“We don’t know how to teach languages in this country, even our own,” he added. “Each year there are more people who don’t speak English, and we can’t teach them fast enough, so it looks to the casual observer as if some people are refusing to speak English.”  

Because ASU is an epicenter of knowledge in the field of bilingual education, González tapped many of his colleagues for their contributions to the encyclopedia along with other national and international experts. “We have a tremendous knowledge base with experts in linguistics, language, language methods and ESL at ASU,” he said.  

ASU faculty and staff who contributed to the Encyclopedia of Bilingual Education include: Professor Alfredo J. Artiles; Assistant Professor Cathy A. Coulter; Christian Faltis, interim associate director for research and graduate studies; Eugene E. Garcia, vice president for education partnerships; Professor Stella K. Hadjistassou; Professor Sarah Hudelson; Associate Professor Faryl Kander; Associate Professor Jeff MacSwan; Professor Teresa L. McCarty; Professor Carlos J. Ovando; Associate Professor Kellie Rolstad; Assistant Professor Mary Eunice Romero-Little; Associate Professor Karen Smith; Pauline Stark, administrative associate, and Elsie M. Szecsy, associate research professional, Southwest Center for Education Equity and Language Diversity; Denis Viri, associate research professional, Center for Indian Education; and Professor Terrence G. Wiley, director of the Division of Educational Leadership & Policy studies.   

Current and former graduate students who also contributed include: Jorge A. Aguilar, Valentina Canese, Mario Castro, James Cohen, Gerda De Klerk, Bryant T. Jensen, Eric Johnson, Hye Jong Kim, Kathleen King, Ha Lam, Mengying Li, Na Liu, Kara T. McAlister, Sarah Catherine Moore, Silvia C. Nogueron, Chanyoung Park, Yun Teng, Larisa Warhol, Miku Watanade, and Jinning Zhang.   

Project examines urban residents’ vulnerability to heat

October 28, 2008

Sophisticated climate and environmental data will be combined with social science knowledge by a team of Arizona State University researchers investigating human vulnerability to deadly heat exposure. 

With the mounting effects of climate change and half the world’s population now living in urban areas – one-third of the people in slums – the potential for the increasing frequency and severity of heat waves is cause for grave concern, says Sharon Harlan, an associate professor of sociology in ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.  Download Full Image

“People in cities are in double jeopardy due to urban heat islands and global climate change – factors that are increasing and intensifying as they interact,” she says. 

Exposure to extreme heat events could lead to even larger disasters than some seen in the recent past, such as the heat wave that took as many as 50,000 lives in Europe in 2003. 

Harlan will lead researchers in seeking answers to guide policymakers and planners in bolstering protective measures to prevent heat-related illness and deaths. The collaborative project, partnering ASU and the University of California, Riverside, is supported by a recently awarded $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation. 

The teams will examine how global environmental change combines with local conditions to affect human vulnerability to climate change. Studies show the urban poor are most vulnerable to extreme heat, but little is known about the interplay between changing urban climates and the human and natural systems within cities. 

Studying a desert metropolis 

Metropolitan Phoenix is the ideal living laboratory for the project. It is heavily populated, hot and arid – like many places around the world experiencing rapid urbanization and limited water supplies. 

Over the past 50 years, the Valley’s summer minimum temperatures have increased by an average of more than 10 degrees Fahrenheit due to the urban heat island effect, while the number of daytime hours with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees has increased significantly. Additionally, the metro area’s central corridor contains fairly distinct neighborhoods of ethnic and socioeconomic diversity. 

“At its core, this project is focused on how society impacts and interacts with the environment,” says Chris Martin, a professor of horticulture at ASU’s Polytechnic campus and co-principal investigator for the project. “It’s about understanding the stratification of society along socioeconomic gradients and how that results in environmental stratification.”  

Higher-income areas are usually cooler, and one of the reasons is the increased amount of vegetation, such as lush lawns, that surround homes. This leads to another issue: Vegetation can somewhat diminish the heat island effect, but at the cost of water, a limited resource in the Southwest. 

Darrel Jenerette, a landscape ecologist and project researcher at the University of California, Riverside, says the team’s research will also look at the trade-off between water use and how it affects local climate and spatial components. For example, he says, “How does one tree incrementally affect its immediate environment – a yard, a neighborhood, all the way up to the entire region?” 

Merging disciplines to see the big picture 

More than a dozen researchers working in nearly as many scientific disciplines and subdisciplines are involved in the project. 

Harlan explains: “The equal partnership among the social and natural sciences, mathematics and education will allow us to use sophisticated modeling tools to analyze urban systems while not losing sight of the health and well-being of real people who live, work and go to school in vastly different neighborhoods.” 

Will Stefanov, a senior geoscientist at the Image Science and Analysis Laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, provides a novel view of the Phoenix-area landscape. “This is an excellent project to use NASA’s Earth remote sensing resources in a very relevant way,” he says. The remotely sensed information is collected from satellites in space or by instruments in airplanes, and “gives you data on the entire city area at one point in time, which can be used to map differences in vegetation, surface temperature and land use and land-cover patterns.” 

Looking at these “snapshots” of the urban area over time, Stefanov says, helps reveal patterns of physical change that influence the development of the Phoenix urban heat island. 

The importance of studying one prototypical metropolis is apparent when considering that global climate changes and growing populations are likely to compound the heat island effect and spur creation of new heat islands around the world. 

Susanne Grossman-Clarke of ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability will assist in creating a heat profile of Phoenix, and conduct regional atmospheric modeling using the Weather Research and Forecasting model. 

The model calculates – among many other variables that characterize the state of the atmosphere in a region – 2-meter air temperature and humidity with a spatial resolution of approximately one kilometer. 

“That means we will obtain air temperature and humidity predictions for each square kilometer of the Phoenix metropolitan area,” Grossman-Clarke explains. “Regional air temperatures depend on the global climate, which is modified by the interaction of local mountains and land use with atmosphere. Therefore, to assess the air temperatures for our region in the future, we need to understand the interactions of global climate change and ongoing urbanization on the atmosphere.” 

Grossman-Clarke is working closely on this aspect of the research with Joellen Russell, a climate modeler from the University of Arizona, who will select times when the Global Climate Model indicates heat wave conditions over Arizona. The team will use the climate information together with the regional Weather Research and Forecasting model to estimate temperatures under those conditions in a process known as “downscaling.” 

For health-related data, the team will rely on ASU’s Center for Health Information and Research, a part of the School of Computing and Informatics in the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering. 

“We will be using data from our Arizona HealthQuery (AZHQ) database to identify patients receiving care for heat-related or heat-exacerbated conditions, and we will collaborate with the other researchers to provide this data in an optimal format for their analyses,” says Wade Bannister, the center’s associate director for informatics. “AZHQ is a unique resource for this project because it contains patient-level data across healthcare systems and over time, enabling the researchers to more accurately assess the differences in health effects in specific geographic areas.” 

Ground-breaking research 

A part of NSF’s Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems Program, the project is one of only 10 chosen this year for funding. “We are in good company with other institutions that are also known for high-quality research on society and environment,” says Linda Lederman, dean of social sciences in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Designed to produce a new integrated system dynamics model of heat-related health impacts in cities, NSF reviewers indicate the endeavor has the potential to be ground-breaking research. 

Harlan says the modeling team, lead by Tim Lant, research director of ASU’s Decision Theater, will “project alternative future scenarios of heat riskscapes, vulnerability maps and public health outcomes in the face of rapid urbanization. We hope to shift the balance of public relief efforts toward making modifications in the built and social environments of the city rather than simply advising people to stay out of the heat.” 

The team is to share findings locally and nationally with city planners and health agencies and to provide data to public health officials responsible for developing early warning systems and heat-illness prevention programs. The results will also be made known to the community to promote better decision-making. 

Lant believes the study has a practical application in illustrating the “effects of climate change and urbanization on the health of Arizona citizens, and helping us plan our cities for a more sustainable future.” 

The Decision Theater will present the findings on its 260-degree screen and through technology that allows information to be displayed off-site. In addition, participatory research and educational activities for low-income and minority populations will be developed, including the production of a special people and climate edition of the ASU-produced “Chain Reaction” children’s science magazine.