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Questions about Multilingual Learners with Dr. Ayanna Cooper: Part 5

Ayanna_CooperTo celebrate National Bilingual/Multilingual Learner Advocacy Month, we sat down with ANet’s resident expert, Dr. Ayanna Cooper Director of Multilingual Learners / English Learners, to talk about what we can do to better serve our linguistically diverse students. This is part of a five-part series with Dr. Cooper throughout April.

Throughout this month, Dr. Cooper has provided us with resources, strategies, and thought-provoking questions at the end of each section.

In our first week, we set the stage and talked about the terminology behind language support services. In part two we talked about how civil rights cases such as Brown v. Board and Lau v. Nicholes inform how we support multilingual learners, especially with the approaching anniversaries of both historic cases. The primary question we began to ask ourselves is, “Do you have data to prove that what’s in place is working for your students?” We moved into talking about our approach to supporting ML/EL students and Dr. Cooper shared some examples of data before differentiation approach. Last week, we spoke about the gaps in support and some additional questions that Dr. Cooper refers to as “simple questions with complex answers” that we encourage leaders to reflect on to start taking action. 

Now, how can we do better? How can we celebrate and support linguistic diversity?

Here are a few resources that are helpful. 

Colorin Colorado:

English Learner Success Forum:

English Language Learners High School Graduation Rates

NCELA Fact Sheets:

Seal of Biliteracy:

After our conversation with Dr. Cooper, we reached out to other bilingual/multilingual ANetters to ask them about their experience with their superpower. 

IMG_4130Marie Kodama, Senior Content Specialist, ELA

  • What language(s) you speak?
    Japanese and English
  • What benefits have you seen thanks to your ability to speak multiple languages?
    Although I have spent most of my upbringing in the U.S., being bilingual has allowed me to maintain my ties with family and friends in Japan, most of whom only speak Japanese. I grew up going back to Japan every summer to stay connected to them and have continued to make yearly trips to Japan in adulthood. In addition to being bilingual, being bicultural has also helped me to understand and support my family and friends better; for example, knowing the cultural context around gender roles is important when my Japanese friends and I discuss challenges being a woman both at work and at home. In my work at ANet, being bilingual has also proved to be an asset because I can put myself in the shoes of the EL/ML students that we serve. As I develop our ELA assessments, I often consider the cognitive load of idiomatic phrases and figurative language on EL/ML students and ensure that they do not impede students from making sense of what is actually being asked on any given item. 

cesarCesar Rios, Manager, Marketing Video Production

  • What language(s) you speak?
    English and Spanish
  • What benefits you’ve seen thanks to your ability to speak multiple languages? 
    Having been raised in a city that celebrated different cultures, and the Mexican culture specifically for me in Chicago, I benefited from being able to communicate and have access to a deeper understanding and appreciation of that culture due to my ability to speak and read Spanish. Knowing English and Spanish created a deeper immersion for me that has widened my perspective on people, traditions, and being able to be open-minded to cultures I don't speak the language to. 

Izzy Profile PicIsabella Perez, Assessment Operations Assistant

  • What language(s) you speak?
    English and Spanish
  • What benefits you’ve seen thanks to your ability to speak multiple languages? 
    I work on the Assessment Operations team helping to make English and Spanish assessments for Math and Language Arts. I’m Cuban (on my dad’s side), and I grew up studying Spanish in school and majored in Hispanic Studies in college. Creating assessments that are equitable and accessible to students is so important to me. Translating Spanish assessments is extremely meaningful to me because it allows students to take ANet assessments in the language they feel most confident in and that allows them to do their best. In so many ways, I see how Spanish makes our assessments better. For example, there are some passages used on our English-language ELA assessments that use Spanish vocabulary. I am able to use my knowledge of the language to aid me when I review those passages and related items. In this way and so many others, my Spanish fluency helps to broaden the scope of our assessments and provide new perspectives for our work.

Our work supporting linguistic diversity goes beyond April's celebration of National Bilingual/Multilingual Learner Advocacy Month. If you are looking for support, do not hesitate to reach out! 

 Fill out the form to ask any questions about ML/EL students.

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