In the TWIN community, we are well-aware that the challenges we face are not entirely unique to us. While teaching bilingually in a Catholic context is unusual today, it certainly wasn't a century ago (http://www.pbs.org/kcet/publicschool/roots_in_history/bilingual.html). Moreover, our public school colleagues are tackling many of the same challenges in their classrooms, though working under different parameters. As our network and community of bilingual instructors continues to grow, TWIN should be cognizant of the rather contentious debate raging in our neighborhood public schools and their districts. Their decisions will have an impact on the tenor of our conversations, and the course bilingual education will take in this country.
One of the biggest battles raging at the state level is that between WIDA (World-class Instructional Design and Assessment) and ELPA21 (English Language Proficiency Assessment for the 21st Century). Both of these programs represent millions of dollars in federal grants ($10m and $6.5m, respectively) and hundreds of public school districts. Originally initiatives developed at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Oregon, WIDA and ELPA21 now have grown to be national conglomerates of state education departments and their many districts.
Slowly but surely, WIDA has been 'winning' the battle for additional influence and funding, in part because significant players are leaving the ELPA21 camp. California left ELPA21 in February 2013 and now Florida is considering leaving as well. The State of Florida, home to the third largest population of English Language Learning (or ELL) students in the United States, will decide in March whether to leave ELPA21. Why does this matter?
It matters because our schools, while blessed with the ability to work outside of state mandates and politics, are influenced by the decisions made for public schools. The TWIN schools do not have to answer to their adjoining public districts, but they should be aware of the decisions being made for the public school ELL students, who may, one day, become their students. Moreover, just as we in TWIN know our schools thrive by connecting our professionals with one another, we must remember that we can learn from our public school colleagues as well. We can learn from their methods directly, by visiting their schools, or indirectly, by considering the implications of our states joining bilingual instruction consortiums called WIDA or ELPA21.
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This blog post was aided by: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/learning-the-language/2014/02/florida_considers_joining_wida.html
-Mary Bridget Burns