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What we mean by 'access'

What we mean by ‘access’?

Following the America’s Languages report, the WG has defined its goal as “access to all of America’s languages for all of its learners.” By “America’s Languages” we mean indigenous, colonial, immigrant, Sign, and our so-called ‘foreign’ or ‘world’ languages, but with an emphasis on the less commonly taught. By “all its learners” we focus on historically underserved learners from bilingual communities (American Indian, Native Hawaiian, Alaska Native, Pacific Islander, Latinx, heritage, immigrant, refugee, English Learners) as well as People of Color and disadvantaged rural and urban populations.

With broad social justice and equity intent, the new Portal represents the full range of unique as well as common concerns of these distinct communities. For example:

  • Native American programs may focus on growing the number of learners and their languages, or teaching their ELs, or sharing their languages with non-natives.

  • Heritage, immigrant, and refugee communities vary according to the generations involved (first, second and beyond). Their priorities range from mostly English learning to maintaining parents’ and grandparents’ language, to ensuring that more languages are taught in weekend schools, to partnering with local schools and districts.

  • Latinx may address English Learners, decreasing segregation of schools and districts that serve their communities, ensuring agency of Latinx learners in classrooms with majority native English learners, or consideration of ‘translanguaging’ and ‘Spanishes’.

  • African American and People of Color face the task of desegregating language education across the board and guaranteeing rights and privileges of language education to a population largely excluded on racial, geographical and/or economic grounds.

  • The rural and urban poor across America contend with decisions by school boards in economically depressed communities as well as by local apprehensions driven by the arrival of recent immigrants.

Each of these communities should define for themselves what ‘access’ means, as each is unique, although there is some notable sociopolitical overlap among them.

While 'access' may be measured in terms of the number of historically underserved learners enrolled, a program's approach in overcoming challenging local conditions may also play a significant role in determining whether a program may serve as a model for emulation.

To summarize, the programs here are not intended to reflect the state of language education broadly writ in these communities. The Portal is unique in focusing on access and equity with accountability of the programs that it recognizes.