[lg policy] Arne Duncan: 'We Need More Parents Like Sonia Sotomayor's Mother'

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jul 31 14:28:39 UTC 2009

Learning the Language

Mary Ann Zehr is an assistant editor at Education Week. She has
written about the schooling of English-language learners for more than
nine years and understands through her own experience of studying
Spanish that it takes a long time to learn another language well. Her
blog will tackle difficult policy questions, explore learning
innovations, and share stories about different cultural groups on her

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Arne Duncan: 'We Need More Parents Like Sonia Sotomayor's Mother'
U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan urged Latino
parents to help create more of a college-going culture among Latino
students in a speech he gave this week at a conference of the National
Council of La Raza in Chicago.

In the July 28 speech, he said, "We need more parents like Sonia
Sotomayor's mother, who said, 'You will study hard and you will
succeed at college and you will graduate—even if I have to work six
days a week to make it happen.' " He commended Sotomayor, who may soon
be confirmed as the first Hispanic woman to become a U.S. Supreme
Court justice, for her hard work as a student.

Duncan made a plug for bilingualism and stated his support for the
Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or "DREAM
Act," which if enacted would provide a path to legalization for
undocumented students who graduate from U.S. high schools and serve in
the military or go to college.
Otherwise, Duncan didn't provide proposals for how education policy
can be improved for Hispanics, or English-language learners, other
than what he's already said publicly should happen for all students.

Forty-five percent of Latino students are English-language learners,
as I've noted before on this blog, but Duncan didn't talk specifically
about how education could be improved for ELLs. He noted that Thelma
Melendez de Santa Ana, a former ELL teacher and the superintendent of
the Pomona Unified School District, has been confirmed as the
Education Department's assistant secretary for elementary and
secondary education. Duncan mentioned that Melendez was an ELL student
herself while growing up in California.

I wonder if the Education Department will provide more specific plans
for how it will support the education of ELLs now that Melendez is on
board. President Barack Obama's campaign platform endorsed
"transitional bilingual education" before his election, but I haven't
heard of Duncan or anyone else on his staff mentioning the phrase
since Obama got elected. In transitional bilingual education, students
receive instruction in their native language in some subjects while
they are learning English.

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