It’s an exciting time for educators dedicated to improving the educational success of English learners across the country. According to U.S. Department of Education Assistant Deputy Secretary Libia Gil, there’s increasing recognition and value placed on linguistic diversity, as well as growing understanding that the ability to read and write in another language—capabilities that many English learners already have—become assets when going to college.
Gil, who is giving the keynote address at next week’s Oregon Leadership Network (OLN) Fall Leadership Institute in Portland, is a presidential appointee who directs the Office of English Language Acquisition. She also serves as the principal advisor to Secretary Arne Duncan on matters related to the education of English learners. Nearly 10 percent of K–12 students nationwide participate in programs for English language learners, and Oregon’s rate is 2 percent higher than the national average.
At the OLN institute, Gil will be speaking to a group of education leaders and school staff from OLN member districts and representatives of organizations dedicated to equitable and successful outcomes for students across Oregon. Many institute participants come from “minority majority” districts with high populations of English learners.
To lead in this area, it’s important to establish—and commit to—high standards for English learners. Research shows that low expectations become a self-fulfilling prophecy. We need to make sure that all English learners have access to rigorous content and the supports to differentiate it. —Libia Gil
Gil also suggests all teachers, administrators, district leaders within a school system should be prepared to help English learners achieve, not just specialists in English learner programs. “Everyone should be part of that process and have exposure to teaching linguistics,” she says.
She believes that the OLN can become a model for using data to identify problems that hinder student success and then testing solutions. “Part of the process is identifying good questions to dig into, gathering evidence, and sharing it,” she says.
The OLN Fall Leadership Institute takes place on December 10, 2014, at Portland’s Sentinel Hotel. The event is open only to OLN members. For more information on the OLN, contact Rob Larson at 503.275.0656.