Op-Ed: Bilingual education in Connecticut an issue of social justice

A heartfelt gracias…to Central Connecticut State University for its leadership in hosting: Dos Dias (Two Days) to Transform Bilingual Education in Connecticuton Feb. 27 and 28.

As a fully bilingual parent, having sent my two sons through Connecticut’s public school system, I know how essential being bilingual is to my family, my culture, and my community.

I am pleased to see that my alma mater has taken the lead on calling for the state to provide bilingual education for all children as we strive to cultivate life-long global contributing citizens with cultural pride and sensitivity toward all.

As the executive director of CT Parent Power, I also believe that bilingual education is now an issue of social justice. Across Connecticut, bilingual education (English and Spanish) is now offered to all students elementary through high school in affluent communities such as Avon, West Hartford, Glastonbury, and New Canaan.

This is wonderful and should be applauded and replicated in our state for all children; however, the communities that serve the largest populations of native Spanish speaking students, like Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven, and New Britain, do not offer comprehensive bilingual education to all students. In this case, students are exited out of bilingual programs after 30 months regardless of their language fluency.

This is because Connecticut has not aligned itself with what is socially just for all children.  We need to adopt best practices that are supported by research and that promote a comprehensive bilingual program such as the dual language model which existed in New Britain until the dual language program at DiLoreto Magnet School was terminated in 2012.

It was heartbreaking to hear from parents and former educators at DiLoreto who told the story of how their blue ribbon school was terminated in place of Kevin Clark’s controversial English Language Development (ELD) program, which is currently under investigation by the U.S. Office of Civil Rights.

I am, however, hopeful that positive change will come soon, as all diverse children in our beloved state of Connecticut deserve to have access to quality and comprehensive bilingual programming.  We need to get this “right from the start” (PreK – 12) for every child, in every school and every community to have an equitable and equal education to strive towards excellence with the collective us!

Marilyn Calderón is executive director of CT Parent Power in Hartford.

 

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