Schools of Promise for Multilingual Students
reviewed by Maria Coady - August 29, 2019
Title: Schools of Promise for Multilingual Students
Author(s): Althier M. Lazar & Patricia Ruggiano Schmidt (Eds.)
Publisher: Teachers College Press, New York
ISBN: 0807759473, Pages: 208, Year: 2018
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Despite the fact that more than half of the worlds population is bi- or multilingual (Grosjean, 2010), monolingual ideologies continue to shape educational practices that simply dont meet the linguistic needs of emergent bilingual students (Makalela, 2018). This book by Althier Lazar and Patricia Ruggiano Schmidt tackles this issue head-on, asking: How can schools meet the educational, social, and linguistic needs of multilingual students? To answer this question, the authors offer examples of innovative instructional practices as well as a humanizing pedagogy of care, compassion, and hope, three aspects of education that seem increasingly out of focus in the current sociopolitical climate, particularly for students from language minoritized backgrounds.
The book is organized in three Parts. Part One consists of three chapters collectively arranged as Where We Are, Where Weve Been, and Where We Need to Be. Part Two builds upon that hopeful third phrase by describing Humanizing Schools Through Caregiver and Community Collaboration. Finally, Part Three includes Portraits of Humanizing Schools.
In the first chapter, Lazar delineates current challenges that multilingual students face, including inequitable (read, uneven) school funding, educational reforms that dont actually improve learning for multilingual students, and racism and segregation. In her subsequent pages, she frames this discussion with the small schools movement of the 1980s and 1990s, in which equitable educational programs, policies, and practices were at the forefront of student learning. Lazar continues to connect those earlier educational movements to 21st century educational practices such as translanguaging, an approach to teaching and learning in which multilingual students entire linguistic repertoire is used a resource (García & Kleifgen, 2010). The chapter then centers on the role of supportive school leaders (p. 11), whom Lazar describes has having qualities that affirm both their multilingual students linguistic resources and their teachers expertise, both of which challenge inequities in education.
The second chapter, titled Nurturing Lifelong and Life-Wide Literacies Through Humanizing Pedagogies, builds into the theme of the book by using two frames: humanizing pedagogy and culturally sustaining pedagogies. The authors, Nadia Granados and Norma González, refer to these collectively as asset pedagogies (p. 17) and apply those to a K-5 dual language program, un programa de inmersión en dos idiomas (a two-language immersion program), that builds Spanish literacy for students both from the barrio (neighborhood) and from a magnet program located in the school. Using interview techniques with graduates of the program now in their 20s, the authors demonstrate how the school and its emphasis on language and care supported students success. The authors offer six principles that guided the school and teachers work with multilingual students, including care, commitment, and critical consciousness.
Chapter Three, titled A School that ROARS, authored by Lee Gunderson and Reginald DSilva, moves away from the elementary dual language model in Chapter Two and into a secondary, English as an Additional Language (EAL) context in British Columbia. The acronym ROARS stands for Respect, Ownership, Attitude, Responsibility, and Safety, five principles that guide school faculty and students in their commitment to affirming diversity. This exceptional school demonstrates how student diversity and a positive school environment can serve as a model for other secondary schools.
Part Two, Humanizing Schools Through Caregiver and Community Collaboration, captures the essence of humanizing pedagogies based on relationships and care (Coady, 2019; Freire, 1970). In this section, the three chapters describe exceptionally rich educational programs and practices. Chapter Four, Humanizing Education: Teachers and Caregivers Collaborate for Culturally Responsive Literacy Learning, aptly recognizes that not all students come from traditional, nuclear family home environments. Rather, caregivers that support and surround the multilingual student include extended family members and other key adults who affirm multilingual students and who engage with educators in nontraditional ways. Chapter Five, Framing Literacy as Revolutionary, examines four key elements of revolutionary school literacy programs: a vision for community-engaged schooling; distributed leadership for literacy; transformative and revolutionary literacy; and valuing multilingualism. In the programs explored by the authors, teachers linked high levels of reading and writing to critical social engagement and advocacy as a means to [changing] how the world works (p. 75).
The third chapter in Part One is titled Creating Welcoming Environments for Latinx Families in New Latino Diaspora Schools. This chapter, written by Melissa Pérez Rhym, who herself moved from Miami to Georgia and experienced how migration affected her education, demonstrates the work involved in creating a welcoming school environment at Blue Ridge High School. Transforming the school environment, situated in the context of the anti-immigrant rhetoric that continues to characterize the policies of the Trump administration, involved a process of reflection and action among educators who worked with new Latinx families. Rhym interviewed newcomer families and conducted surveys of families and teachers in the school. She found that small changes in school policies, little-by-little (p. 97), lead to increased family engagement and an overall sense of inclusion among students.
In Part Three, the final section of the book that includes Chapters Seven through Ten, the editors provide four Portraits of Humanizing Schools, a collection of exemplary schools from diverse areas of the U.S., including an urban public school in South Texas; an urban public high school with an international focus in the Bronx; a secondary (middle-high) charter school in San Diego; and an urban public elementary school in Los Angeles. Although these four schools represent different student backgrounds, the majority of students are Latinx. In Chapter Seven, the authors describe how curricular changes in language arts to include international literature enabled students to better connect to learning. Chapter Eight takes this work a step further as students declare, as the chapter title states,Im Multilingual! This chapter demonstrates how students use of translanguaging affirms their multilingual identities in their New York City charter school. The authors also emphasize how the languaging practices of the students can be used to transform learning spaces.
Chapters Nine and Ten take place in California, a state that continues to reverse anti-bilingual education policies and practices. Chapter Nine, Language and Literacy Learning Beyond Elementary School, describes a public charter school in San Diego. The authors emphasize relationships between teachers and students and note the importance of timely interventions for students in need. Chapter Ten, Learning and Practicing a Humanizing Pedagogy, is an in-depth examination of one teacher candidates journey. Moving from the context of preservice teacher education into actual classroom practices through field experiences, the chapter describes how Jaime advanced the literacies and languages of emergent bilinguals through targeted word analysis, conversations, and opinion writing. The chapter shows how one teacher candidates work transformed the learning of her students through personalized engagement. The final chapter of the book, Building Equity, Literacy, and Resilience Within Educational Systems, offers a summary of the prior chapters and builds on the theme of equity from a global perspective. This chapter should leave readers with a sense of hope and future direction.
Schools of Promise for Multilingual Students confirms the authors and editors commitment to humanizing pedagogy, relationships, and care by illuminating the often-overlooked work of educators who affirm diversity and who seek to build a better world for and with their students and families. What this volume ultimately offers are multiple examples of school programs and models that other educators, scholars, and teacher educators can adapt, leaving readers with a message much like that of a students poster referenced in Chapter Ten: ¡Sí Se Puede!You Can Do It!
Coady, M. R. (2019). Connecting schools and the multilingual home: Theory and practice for rural educators. Bristol, England: Multilingual Matters.
Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Trans. Myra Bergman Ramos. New York, NY: Continuum.
Grosjean, F. (2010). Bilingual: Life and reality. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Makalela, L. (Ed.). (2018). Shifting lenses: Multilanguaging, decolonisation, and education in the global South. Cape Town, South Africa: The Center for Advanced Studies of African Society.