National Association of Bilingual Education convention 2015 in Las Vegas!

17 March 2015

I’ve just got back to the office from the first Multilingual Matters conference of the year – the National Association of Bilingual Education (NABE) convention, which this year took place in glittering Las Vegas. NABE conferences have a history of being in wacky places – the first time I attended it was held in Disneyworld, Florida – but I’m always impressed by how the delegates manage to abstain from the temptations of the host city and make the conference a success.

Laura at the NABE book stand

Laura at the NABE book stand

We had our usual stand in the exhibition hall where I had special displays for some of our new books. Fresh off the press, and very popular with the delegates, was Latino Immigrant Youth and Interrupted Schooling: Dropouts, Dreamers and Alternative Pathways to College by Marguerite Lukes. One delegate absentmindedly picked up a copy while waiting for me to complete his order form (for another purchase) and was so engrossed in the stories that he ended up purchasing a copy too! The new 4th edition of Colin Baker’s bestselling book A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism proved to be as popular as expected, as did the Spanish version of a former edition of the book, which was translated by Alma Flor Ada.

The Bilingual Advantage

The Bilingual Advantage

However, by far the bestselling book of the conference was The Bilingual Advantage: Language, Literacy and the US Labor Market edited by Rebecca M. Callahan and Patricia C. Gándara. Patricia gave the final keynote presentation of the conference during which she portrayed the book as a detective story. She explained how the book looks for something that we think must exist (that bilingualism is a labour advantage) but for which there is no evidence. By posing numerous questions, such as which languages are acknowledged as an economic force and whether the background of the language speaker makes a difference to the perceived value of their language abilities, the contributors of the work set out to uncover the truth about the value of bilingualism to both individuals and society.

The excitement was palpable in the hall as Patricia led us through the studies presented in the book to the finding that balanced bilingualism is associated with a host of really important outcomes and that losing bilingualism comes at a cost for society. The conclusion that it is not a waste of money to educate children bilingually was met with a round of applause and everyone left the hall feeling armed with proof to support any claim otherwise. I had a small stand outside the hall displaying the books and was delighted as a long queue of delegates formed, each one eager to get a copy of the work.

Before Patricia Gandara’s keynote speech, State Senator Ricardo Lara (from California’s 33rd District) was awarded the NABE Citizen of the Year award for his significant work on improving educational equality and opportunities for all students. Ricardo is an advocate for multilingual education and has created the California EdGE Initiative (Education for a Global Economy), which will go to a vote in 2016. If passed, California’s English-only instruction mandate in public schools (prop 227) will be amended. The evidence reported in the book can be used to convince the public of the benefits for individuals and society of the maintenance of the home language and that it is time to remedy the damage done by prop 227. Patricia Gandara ended her keynote by reminding us that while what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, what happens in California often does not stay in California and there may be implications of this vote outside California.

Laura being welcomed to Las Vegas!

Laura being welcomed to Las Vegas!

As for Las Vegas, well, what a venue for a conference! Outside of the conference hours I tried to get a feel for all that the city had to offer and do something different every evening. Most of the attractions are in the numerous hotels: I rode a rollercoaster in one; went up the tallest freestanding tower in the USA in another and saw Britney Spears perform live in a third! I am also proud to be leaving Las Vegas $15 richer than when I arrived, having had a bit of luck on the roulette! I tore myself away from the temptations of the casinos to return home for a week, before the next round of conferences begins. Look out for Tommi at GURT this week, or Kim, Tommi and me at AAAL in Toronto the week after as our spring travel schedule hots up!

Laura


Latino Immigrant Youth and Interrupted Schooling

3 March 2015

In February we published Marguerite Lukes’ new book Latino Immigrant Youth and Interrupted Schooling. In this post, Marguerite gives us a bit of background to the book.

Each year countless immigrant youth migrate to the US and Europe with dreams of a better tomorrow. International news organizations report regularly on migrants’ ordeals (see here  and here) but few focus on what happens once they settle in their host country. Many, in the midst of their adolescent years, have abandoned their schooling and arrive as unaccompanied minors, facing multiple challenges in education and the labor market, with adolescent needs but shouldering adult responsibilities.

Latino Immigrant Youth and Interrupted SchoolingMigrant youth are the subject of my new book Latino Immigrant Youth and Interrupted Schooling. The book explores the voices, perspectives and life experiences of a growing group of immigrant young adults at a time when both Europe and the US struggle to design effective immigration policies to integrate and educate them. The book emerged from my personal experiences teaching and designing programs for these youth. I found that prior research tended to ‘explain away’ the issue of immigrant youth’s interrupted schooling, equating it with disinterest in education. In the classroom, I met young migrants thirsty for information about college and job training, and who often had been encouraged to leave school or were frustrated because their need to work and support families with remittances conflicted with school’s schedules. Far from being disinterested in school, the young people whom I met were eager to learn English, enter college, and become professionals, many with aspirations to become doctors, lawyers, teachers and social workers and sought opportunities to advance. Yet institutional barriers stood between them and realizing their dreams; they had few mentors or peers who could help them access feasible educational options.

The book fills a glaring gap in scholarship on immigrant young adults who are categorized as dropouts (those who have left secondary school) by presenting new data on a significant but overlooked population. In the book, I present recommendations for supporting and serving these youth. Persistent deficit views that suggest that some groups ‘value’ education more than others overlook sociopolitical realities and global economic factors the lead to school interruption prior to migration and institutional barriers that keep students out of school once they arrive in the host country. The book seeks to enrich the conversation by putting faces to young people who are often presented merely as statistics. The book also explores ways in which the US political economy impacts the lives, educational pathways and work options of these young adults, and their integration into the cultural, social and economic mainstream of the US.

Historical and contextual data are used to provide the reader with an understanding of the socio-political forces at work that lead young people to leave school in their countries of origin.

By using data collected in interviews of 150 students who arrived in the US between the ages of 15 and 24, I present their experiences as they navigate the complex and confusing education landscape after arriving in the US. Existing policies often provide disincentives for schools to serve youth who are emergent bilinguals and older than the average secondary student, and sometimes with emergent basic academic skills.

Central to this new volume is an examination of the role of language, English proficiency, literacy and academic skills play in access to educational options. It presents research on multilingual and translanguaging approaches to academic English development and existing policies and practices for students with interrupted formal education. The book concludes with a discussion of existing public policies, opportunities and institutional constraints that impact the young adults discussed here. Existing models that show promise are presented, alongside challenges and persisting questions and directions for the future. The book shares voices and compelling stories of young immigrant adults who were eager to share their experiences. Time and again they reminded me that this type of scholarship is important because, as one youth explained, “they don’t really see us.”

If you would like more information about this book, please see our website.


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