TESOL Welcomes President's Call for Expanding Education, Immigration Reform Date: 13 February 2013 In his 2013 State of the Union Address, President Obama highlighted the vital role that education plays in supporting the U.S. economy. The initiatives outlined in his speech—advancing pre-K education and secondary schools—hold promise, but they will not be fully effective unless they take into account the needs of the fastest growing population of student in U.S. schools: English learners. As President Obama noted, pre-K education has been proven to benefit young learners, and it especially benefits English learners, who are often in need of such services. Expanding the benefit to millions of young learners is overdue. However, the proposed reforms for Pre-K and high school must include resources to support educators and meet the unique needs of English learners. Without expanding the number of trained ESL and bilingual educators and providing training for all educators who work with English learners, these reform efforts will fall short of serving many of the students who could most benefit from them. While most English learners in U.S. schools are born in this country, many of their parents are not, including many who are undocumented. TESOL International Association supports President Obama’s call for comprehensive immigration reform. Many of the reform proposals include learning English among the steps along the path to citizenship for immigrants, and TESOL International Association and its members stand ready to work with the President and Congress to provide these services to those adult English learners who wish to pursue them. The current system for providing English language and civics education, however, is at capacity, with waiting lists in many locations. Immigration reform will likely result in an increased demand for these services. Expanding the current system to meet this demand will be very difficult without additional resources. Immigrant integration is a critical component of comprehensive immigration reform. TESOL International Association therefore strongly urges the President and Congress to include resources for immigration integration, especially English language education, in their proposals. These efforts will help build strong communities that continue the long U.S. tradition of respect for cultural and linguistic diversity.
I found the President's SOTU speech very encouraging, especially on immigration reform! I predict immigration and citizenship issues will be the TESOL trend for the foreseeable future. Virginia DOE Office of Adult Education and Literacy published their 5 year strategic plan that specifically addressed English literacy and civics education. Civics education has 4 components: history, government, citizenship-naturalization, and civic engagement. The civic engagement component is a broader umbrella that accommodates the kind of critical pedagogy we have approached in ADLT 650. There is a need for English language learners (ELLs) to use their voice on this issue. To realize any kind of reform, people need to engage society on this issue. This is an example of taking literacy into practice, why literacy is action. This is why I was about to jump out of my seat last Tuesday night! Anyway, my program just received it's EL/Civics grant, enough to take us through another 6 months. We operate on the brink, one step at a time. But, this is what we live for! This is why, at least in my humble opinion, literacy doesn't belong in the classroom, it belongs out on the streets (Internet, TV, mass media). If you have non native speakers/ELLs in any of your programs or work environments, please engage them in conversation on this issue. Ask for their opinions, what changes they want to see, or how important reform is to them. I hope it's an important issue for you, too.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this post. Susan Wa