Mar 19, 2024

Supporting Pathways to Multilingualism

Students learning with headsets

By Anne Partika

The Office of English Language Acquisition wants to provide every student with a pathway to multilingualism. Here’s how they plan to do it.


Dr. Melissa Castillo, Senior Advisor in the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA), provided the CCNetwork Multilingual Learner Work Group with an update on the Department’s new “Being Bilingual is a Superpower” initiative and other work to support pathways to multilingualism. Check out her presentation, using the links below.


1. Center pathways to multilingualism in the Department of Education’s Raise the Bar initiative

OELA’s work focuses on three key levers to provide every student with a pathway to multilingualism: (1) centering equitable access for English learners, (2) diversifying the multilingual educator workforce, and (3) supporting quality bilingual education for all. In each of these areas, Dr. Castillo emphasized the importance of supporting state and local educational agencies and promoting evidence-based practices. Watch the video here.


2. Prioritize family engagement, early learning, dual language programs, and the seal of biliteracy

In the family engagement area, OELA recently released a family toolkit and mobile app for parents and caregivers of English learners, available in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic. They also recently hosted an early learning webinar on how pathways to multilingualism begins with early learning. In the dual language program area, OELA is identifying exemplar programs in five states (CA, TX, NY, UT, NC) to develop a blueprint for how to scale up and replicate programs across the country. Finally, OELA has continued their work on the seal of biliteracy—now available in 49 states and D.C.—and released an infographic that provides an overview of how it has been implemented across the country. Watch the video here.


3. Provide grants to tie funding to effective supports for multilingualism

Grants include (1) the National Professional Development grant program, which supports colleges and universities to deliver professional learning for teachers of English learners; (2) the Native American and Alaska Native Children in School grant program, which enhances capacity to support Native American students who are English learners; and (3) the National Clearinghouse of English Language Acquisition, which disseminates public resources on supporting English learners. Watch the video here


4. Launching the “Being Bilingual is a Superpower” initiative 

In November, the Department of Education launched its “Being Bilingual is a Superpower” initiative aimed at centering multilingualism in overall Raise the Bar efforts, messaging the economic imperative of multilingualism and promoting first-language proficiency. Watch the video here.


As part of this initiative, the Department released a call to action that called on educators to spark students’ interest in learning a second language and maintaining their first language; parents to support and advocate for high-quality language programs; colleges and universities to prioritize bilingual preparation programs for multilingual educators; national, state, and local leaders to invest in and implement policies for high-quality language programs; and workforce leaders to advocate for and invest in language skills. Watch the video here.