Area Educators Celebrate National Bilingual/Multilingual Learners Advocacy Month

Over one hundred educators from Monterey, San Benito, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties gathered on April 25, 2017 in Morgan Hill for the first ever Bilingual/Multilingual Learner Advocacy Month Regional Showcase. This day-long event, organized by the Region V County Offices of Education, offered educators an opportunity to learn about and also share exemplary practices for students who speak languages other than English with their families. Over 45% of students in Santa Cruz County speak a language other than or in addition to English at home.

three educators standing in front of sign with umbrella on itThe day began with break-out sessions on topics such as the new English language proficiency test or ELPAC that California will begin using to assess students’ progress in acquiring English in 2018. Sessions on the research on the impact of multilingual educational programs, such as two-immersion programs and on California’s new law, the CA EDGE (Proposition 58), which supports the development of programs that offer students the opportunity to develop multiple languages were also available.

Following the keynote address, districts who have developed a Seal of Biliteracy program for their graduating seniors or a Pathways to Biliteracy Program for younger students were recognized for their leadership in promoting multilingualism. Thirty-three district across the four counties received a plaque commemorating their achievement, including all four districts with high schools in Santa Cruz County and two charter schools serving high school students. The districts and charter schools recognized were: CEIBA College Preparatory AcademyPacific Collegiate SchoolPajaro Valley Unified School DistrictSan Lorenzo Valley Unified School District, Santa Cruz City Schools and Scotts Valley Unified School District.A keynote address by Anya Hurwitz, Deputy Director of the Sobrato Family Foundation’s Early Academic Language Model (SEAL) program, highlighted the need for education leaders to align education systems to meet the needs of twenty-first century learners.

The day concluded with a lively poster session highlighting programs serving multilingual learners, in four categories: 1) Dual Language Programs/Seal of Biliteracy and Pathway Awards, 2) Achieving Language and Academic Success, 3) Diversity and Global Education, 4) Parent and Community: Leadership and Engagement. This informal and interactive session allowed participants to share their best practices, ask questions and learn from each other, in fulfillment of the Regional Showcase’s goal of “providing a regional networking opportunity to share promising practices that support English learner success.” Santa Cruz County educators were well represented in the poster session. Live Oak School District presented on the theme of Achieving Language and Academic Success with a poster entitled: Coaching: the Power of Coherence. Santa Cruz City Schools, in partnership with Senderos, highlighted their “Latino Role Models Conference,” in the category of Parent and Community: Leadership and Academic Success. DeLaveaga Elementary School’s Dos Alas program, also part of Santa Cruz City Schools, shared information about their program in a poster called: “El ser bilingüe abre dos mundos“, as part of the Dual Language Programs theme. Pajaro Valley Unified School District’s Starlight Elementary School also represented the Dual Language Program theme, with a poster entitled “Celebrating Social Justice and Linguistic Diversity.” In addition, Starlight was recognized for their work in the Diversity and Global Education theme. Pajaro Valley Unified School District also represented the theme of Parents and Community: Leadership and Engagement with a poster from their parent educator team on “Engaging Families to Take Action.”

Attendees left feeling reinvigorated and inspired. They appreciated the framing of bilingualism and multiingualism as assets, the opportunity to interact face-to-face with county and state education officials and to meet colleagues engaged in similar work in the region. The opportunity to showcase their work and share it with others provided affirmation. In a clear testament to the day’s success, inquiries about when the next one would be held have already been received.

Santa Cruz County Office of Education’s Curriculum and Instruction Department, together with their counter parts from the Santa Clara, Monterey and San Benito Offices of Education, organized the event, with support of federal Title III funding, as part of their work to promote the success of students learning English as an additional language our county’s public schools.