Bill H.4032: An Act relative to language opportunity for our kids (LOOK) passed in the legislature on November 15, and was signed into law by Governor Baker on November 22, 2017. The LOOK bill will allow school districts in Massachusetts to establish English Learner programs that best meet the needs of students, recognize the assets that bilingual students bring to its schools, and encourage increased language learning for all students. It also changes designations of bi/multilingual learners from “limited English proficient student” to “English learner.” See the text of the law here.

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A step toward reversing language education policy to reflect bilingualism as an asset occured with the signing of this proposition.  It lifted previous restriction on bilingual education and passed by a 73% to 27% margin. For more, see page 47 of García, O., & Kleifgen, J. (2018). Educating emergent bilinguals: Policies, programs, and practices for English language learners (2nd ed.). Teachers College Press. For quick facts, see this infographic.

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This act granted the right of indigenous language groups to maintain their language and culture by declaring “the right of Native Americans to express themselves through their languages” and to not restrict it “in any public proceeding, including publicly supported education programs.” [Source] Please read the findings on the primary document here. Excerpt: “The Congress finds that— (1) the status of the cultures and languages of Native Americans is unique and the United States has the responsibility to act together with Native Americans to ensure the survival of these unique cultures and languages…”

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President Joe Biden’s executive order has positivie implications for Hispanics in America, especially in regard to their education. The initiative will “identify and promote evidence-based practices that can provide Hispanic and Latino students with rigorous and well-rounded education…as well as access to support services that in improve their educational…opportunities” in the face of hisotrical inequities in the classroom. [Source] Enacting policies that support Hispanic children, who constitute more than 27 percent of all pre-K through 12the grade students, means providing more and better services to support English language development.

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The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) during the Obama administration repealed the No Child Left Behind Act and amended the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. It is the United State’s current set of rules governing K-12 public school education and aims to provide a quality education to all students. Four historically disadvantaged groups are provided four in this Act, namely, students in…

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The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a stimulus package signed into law on February 17, 2009, by President Obama, replaced the Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994. It provided $115 billion for education spending, including $13 billion for low-income public school children, $12.2 billion for IDEA special education, and $4.35 billion for the program Race to the Top. [Source] The Race to the Top initiative offered competitve grants to states that made dramatic changes to their education systems such as accelerating student performance, adopting rigorous academic standards, implementing data systems to measure student progress, and evaluating teacher and principals in part on students’ performance. [Source] The implication for language policy is that student performance included subgroups, such as emerging bilinguals,…

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This highly contested school board resolution in California is in part the result of the repeated vetoing of state legislation aimed at recognizing and thus providing for the “unique language stature of descendants of slaves” [Source]. The resolution cites the Bilingual Education Act in which the mandate to “establish, implement and sustain programs of intruction for children…

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While the Bilingual Education Act underwent multiple reauthorizations and affected the outcome of many court cases at both the state and federal levels [see Wikipedia], the 1994 reauthorization under the Clinton administration was most important for language policy because it reversed “the march away from primary language instruction” [Source], gave preference to grant applications that developed bilingual proficiency in schools, and provided for indigenous languages. For a thorough but brief overview of Bilingual Education, see Ester…

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