Wednesday | June 8, 2016

Most students who immigrate to the United States enter our schools as English language learners (ELLs). These students face the challenge of simultaneously learning a new language and the same subject material as students for whom English is the native language, while struggling to adapt to a new, often alien culture. Few groups are more poorly served by our schools: Immigrant English language learners graduate high school at a rate 20 percentage points below the national average, even falling below the rate for students with special needs.

The divisive, hateful rhetoric of racial, ethnic and religious bigotry that has been unleashed in the current presidential election campaign has increased the obstacles faced by these students, and left them shaken and unsure about their place in American society. As prejudice is promoted and employed by leading public figures, including a number of presidential aspirants in one of the nation’s two leading political parties, some native-born students are empowered to bring those sentiments and expressions into the classroom. In some states, elected officials have prohibited bilingual instruction and education about the heritage and culture of English language learners.

What is the appropriate response of American educators to this critical situation? What must be done to provide English language learners with a high-quality education that addresses their specific needs? What pedagogical strategies best meet the needs of English Language Learners? What must be done to provide students with a pathway to citizenship and full incorporation into American society? How should educators confront expressions of prejudice and bigotry against immigrant students and other English language learners? Our panel will address these and other questions from different vantage points and experiences.


Steven Choi, executive director, New York Immigration Coalition

Ester de Jong, president-elect, TESOL International Association; director of the School of Teaching and Learning and professor of ESOL/Bilingual Education, College of Education, University of Florida

Joe Luft, executive director, Internationals Network for Public Schools

Moderator: Giselle Lundy-Ponce, Assistant to the Executive Vice President, American Federation of Teachers

Sponsored by the Albert Shanker Institute and the American Federation of Teachers, this conversation series is designed to engender lively and informative discussions on important educational issues. We deliberately invite speakers with diverse perspectives, including views other than those of the AFT and the Albert Shanker Institute. What is important is that these participants are committed to genuine engagement with each other