Yesterday, I gave a presentation on Illinois's strategy for young English language learners at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) annual conference in Orlando, Florida. The presentation was based on Starting Early with English Language Learners: First Lessons From Illinois, a paper we published this spring. Anyone interested can see the slides from my presentation (which is mostly graphics from the brief) here.
After the presentation, both during the Q&A and throughout the panel, there was a lot of discussion about how to best support ELL students at different ages, not just in pre-K and the early grades, but in middle school and high school, too. School board members and state-level officials are clearly thinking long and hard about many of the same issues. Designing aligned, holistic programs for ELL's and recruiting great bilingual teachers were priorities I heard voiced over and over again. Some participants asked about how many years an ELL student should ideally spend in an ELL instructional program, which is something I haven't weighed in on in the past and would love to hear thoughts about from Early Ed Watch readers.
Any post on the conference would be incomplete without mention of the 2012 Presidential candidates, who are using the NALEO conference to speak to potential Latino voters. Mitt Romney spoke yesterday, where he laid out some new (but not comprehensive) ideas on immigration policy that mostly garnered either silence or polite applause from the audience. Today, President Obama will become the first sitting president to address the group. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) will also speak.
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush spoke shortly after Romney and received a much more enthusiastic welcome. Bush addressed the crowd in both Spanish and English and focused on education for most of his address, which he said was "common ground" for both Republicans and Democrats right now and should be a focus of governors and state officials in the coming years. Bush's ideas on education are closer to President Obama's than they are to the plan that Romney laid out in April -- and the applause he received from a left-leaning group of state and local officials signaled that he might be right about the potential for bi-partisan action on education.