I was a junior in High school when I was no longer identified as an English Learner. My ESL class that was no longer needed opened up a spot in my schedule. “You can take an elective class” my counselor said. After a quick review of the available courses, I opted for creative writing with Mr. Shultz.
It is that time of the year again. As educators, we understand that testing season comes and goes every spring. This year’s season has begun and with that, ACCESS testing is knocking on our door. This means that many of our students across the nation will be taking the ACCESS test for the first time OR for the 12th time during the upcoming weeks. As teachers and leaders, let’s not forget that the ACCESS test is a high stakes assessment. This means that the results could influence the trajectory of our student’s schooling and at times their life.
As a former identified English Learner and current school leader, I’m well aware of the inequalities still present in our school system. Our students face them daily. Whether we like it or not, the combination of being identified as an English Learner with poorly structured and supported language programs in school districts, results in limited educational opportunities for our kids. This is due to program requirements, district policies, school schedules, limited relevant extracurricular activities, and a need for advocacy and increased awareness of how to support culturally and linguistically diverse students.
This spring, when ACCESS results come in, many of our students will meet criteria for language proficiency, and will be exposed to mainstream school courses, different social groups, and expanded opportunities for career paths. That is awesome and a big reason for celebration. Let’s celebrate, and continue to support our students. Let’s not forget that being an emerging bilingual is a journey, not a destination. Our kids will still need us and we need to be there for them. Unfortunately, the sad reality is that many of our kids will not meet proficiency requirements. That is also the reason why we work so hard in leveling the playing field in our education system. That’s the reason why we advocate for programing improvement, that supports the much needed change in mindset to believe that ALL students, regardless of their linguistic and cultural background can achieve at high levels.
ACCESS testing has begun, but the work for supporting and serving our kids has been going on all along. All of us have gifts that can help others, support change and advocate for justice. Being a servant leader means investing in people and the improvement of human capital for a better world. As leaders and teachers interested in supporting Multilingual Learners, we must continue to serve as advocates for fair and equitable programming opportunities for our kids. Our students deserve the same educational and social opportunities as part of their school experience regardless of their language classification. We must speak and act in favor of equal values of language and cultures. As leaders, we must lead intentionally and promote the value of bilingualism to be visible and alive in our schools. It is a value worth celebrating!