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Researchers to discuss issues of equity, diversity in the Southwest

March 01, 2010

Leading language, literacy and education policy researchers will gather this week at Arizona State University to discuss their research on issues of language, race, culture and equity in American education.

“Research on Educational Equity and Diversity in the Southwest, ” presented by the Mary Lou Fulton Institute and Graduate School of Education will take place Thursday, March 4, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., in the Memorial Union’s Pima Auditorium.

 The symposium showcases the published research of ASU faculty and book collaborations with researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, including guest panelist Patricia Gandara, UCLA Professor of Education co-director of The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles.

Moderated by Art Lebowitz, a Valley education leader and retired superintendent of Phoenix Union High School District, this panel of minority language and equity in education experts will present their most recent publications and discuss the relevance and implications of their work for all schools.

“The symposium will provide a forum for discussing the educational issues that are important to the diverse populations of the Southwest and the ongoing educational challenges and opportunities,” Professor Terrence Wiley, executive dean of the Fulton Institute and Graduate School of Education.  

The debate as to whether using bilingual education and languages other than English in pre-K-12 school settings “holds children back” is among the issues the panel will examine through related research findings.

“The population of Arizona and the U.S. isn’t standing still. It doesn’t look like it did 50 years ago or 25 years ago, and it won’t look the same 25 years from now. Part of the resilience of an education system is being able to adapt to meet the needs of the population as it changes,” Wiley said.

In addition to addressing the needs of language minorities, the panel will examine the decline in foreign language instruction in the U.S. and its future impact on American children being able to engage and interact with the world at large in a globalized economy.

Wiley, Lee and Rumberger have edited a new book, The Education of Language Minority Immigrants in the United States, which includes relevant research of these issues by scholars from several disciplines. The book examines the relationships between language education and economics, immigration, educational progress, language loss, identity studies related to education, and the maintenance of heritage languages among immigrant populations. Applied linguistics expert Jeff MacSwan, professor of language and literacy and applied linguistics, also contributed to the book with his research on technical issues in language assessment of children.

“National agendas such as No Child Left Behind or Race to the Top have one-size-fits-all goals. In order to achieve the desired ends of these initiatives, it’s useful to understand the diversity of the populations we’re working with and how various education policies respond to their needs—or sometimes miss their needs,” Wiley said. “An increasing portion of the U.S. school population is either not native born or is minority in status. These are the populations we really need to make progress with. We need to be addressing their needs and know what’s happening with these kids.”

In the book, Forbidden Language: English Learners and Restrictive Language Policies, Gandara pulls together the most current research on the effects of restrictive language policies and actual outcomes for students and teachers in California, Arizona and Massachusetts. These states have mandated structured English immersion as the primary means of instructions and restricted other approaches, such as bilingual education. ASU’s Alfredo J. Artiles, professor of special education with the Fulton Institute and Graduate School of Education, is a contributor.

“This is a topic that has been important in Arizona and California because children in immigrant populations are expected to acquire English as quickly as possible and maintain pace with their English-speaking peers,” Wiley said. “Sometimes, in the public debate, the concern about these children acquiring English overshadows them keeping up with their peers. This is even more important at the high school level with the dropout rate, performance on standardized tests and preparation for college.”

Teresa McCarty, Alice Wiley Snell Professor of Education and Policy Studies with the Fulton Institute and Graduate School of Education, also is a panelist. Her forthcoming book, Ethnography and Language Policy, focuses on indigenous/language minority education, language education planning and policy, critical literacy studies and ethnographic methods in education. Her work links to a growing global concern about the rapid decline of languages around the world, particularly indigenous languages, as it’s estimated that 70 percent of the world’s languages may be lost by the end of the century, which is relevant for native populations in Arizona and the Southwest

Also participating in the symposium is Kimberley Scott, associate professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and executive editor of The State of Black Arizona project. Her published reports focus on the education and race issues facing Arizona's Black population. Similarly, The State of Latino Arizona, a report researched and written by ASU faculty in Transborder Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies, is being represented by Eugene Garcia, ASU’s vice president for Education Partnerships. Garcia and Paul Luna, chair of the College of Public Programs Downtown Opportunities Board, contributed to the report, which was led by Carlos Vélez-Ibáñez, Chair and Professor of the Department of Transborder Chicana/o
and Latina/o Studies and Anthropology

 “In the last decade, educators and policymakers have realized the U.S. is at a disadvantage as a country because we don’t do well in foreign language instruction. There has been little attempt to link bilingual education with foreign language instruction, but people are increasingly interested in foreign language classrooms,” Wiley said. “Arguments are that language resources in foreign language instruction or heritage language instruction help expand the U.S.’ capacity in global trade and national security and make this a country better able to communicate with the world at large.”

Other esteemed Fulton Education faculty participating are: Beatriz Arias, associate professor of language and literacy, who is conducting research on teachers’ perceptions of their preparation to work with English Language Learners. Kellie Rolstad, ASU associate professor of language and literacy and applied linguistics, who along with MacSwan published book chapters on English emersion programs and bilingual education.

“We now have 10 years under our belt to review how the new policies are working and discuss how different models between the states work. We are interested not only in the continuing success of children, but also in the longitudinal impact of policies. Are they delivering what they claim?” Wiley noted. “In order to try to use educational research in a way that helps inform policy, we have to continue to do this kind of work, even though it may go in a different direction than the established policies.”

To attend the symposium, please RSVP to Paula Miller, or call 480.727.7262. Visitor parking is available in the Apache Parking Structure. For a campus map, visit