“If you could have any superpower, what would it be?” It’s a timeless question that we as educators ask young people all the time—and in truth, we might occasionally ask ourselves that same question! There might be the expected responses of being able to fly, having superstrength, or teleportation. But we might also imagine a world in which a young person who has a multilingual background might assert, “I already have one!” The “Being Bilingual is a Superpower” initiative by the U.S. Department of Education (Department) seeks to develop multilingual education opportunities for all students; bolster high-quality language programs; and establish a diverse, nationwide multilingual educator workforce. These efforts could create the conditions for more and more young people to respond to that question in the affirmative—and to do so in multiple languages and dialects.
The Department’s initiative “seeks to promote research-based bilingual educational opportunities and language instruction in early learning education settings and beyond” to encourage that reality of all students being confident in their superpower of multilingualism.
During their kickoff, the roundtable discussion was moderated by Dr. Melissa Castillo, a Senior Advisor at the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA). Each person on the panel offered a different perspective that together combined into a constellation, guiding us toward multilingual learner success. Evelyn DeJesus, Executive Vice President of the American Federation of Teachers and the President of the National Association for Bilingual Education, reflected on her own experiences growing up when the term “Limited English Proficiency (LEP)” was commonplace. She emphasized the clear difference in labeling a child “LEP” versus celebrating a child’s superpower in being able to speak, listen, read, and write in one, two, three, or more languages in addition to English. The initiative highlights the multiple benefits of investing in a student’s bi/multilingual powers, including the revitalization of Native and Indigenous languages, the college and career benefits of graduating from high school with a Seal of Biliteracy, and the protective factors in delaying the onset of dementia.
Interested in learning more? The Comprehensive Center Network’s Multilingual Learners Work Group page champions multilingual learners and develops resources to address their unique needs. There you can find resources and materials from the Department and OELA as well as other materials produced by the Regional Comprehensive Centers and the National Comprehensive Center.
Here are a couple examples of what you will find:
- The Bilingual Educator Pipeline collection compiles blog posts and briefs, addressing the policies, practices, research, and lessons learned regarding the bi/multilingual educator shortage.
- The Region 19 Comprehensive Center shares their experience in this Impact Story regarding supports for Hawai‘i’s Multilingualism policy and initiatives.
For more information about the Comprehensive Center Network’s multilingual education supports, please contact us.