New Jersey Consortium for Immigrant Children, Morristown, NJ
The Covid-19 pandemic and resulting shift to virtual learning brought into sharp relief the inequities that English learners experience in the education system. Despite tremendous work on the part of teachers, parents, and other caregivers to provide continuity of learning during the pandemic, these efforts have been made more difficult by school districts that did not follow New Jersey’s Bilingual Code, and by shortcomings in the Bilingual Code that allow school districts not to provide the necessary resources and accommodations to English learners (ELs).
As such, I was hired by the New Jersey Consortium for Immigrant Children (NJCIC) to lead the creation of a report that identified EL-specific needs and rights within New Jersey’s education system; understand whether schools are meeting these needs and respecting these rights; and, where they are not, make the appropriate policy recommendations. The primary responsibilities of this internship included the following:
1) Interviewing ESL and Bilingual educators and sharing their experience during the pandemic. These interviews covered a broad range of topics, ranging from the technological inaccessibility of virtual classrooms, to inadequate professional development on EL services, to a lack of bilingual mental health services.
2) Researching the current demographics of NJ ELs, a task that was greatly assisted by Jessica Leven, who serves as a senior attorney at Rutgers Education Law Center (ELC). This research served as a section of the final report published.
3) Coding data from the NJ Teachers of English to Students of Other Languages/New Jersey Bilingual Educators (NJTESOL/NJBE) survey to understand whether ELs received resources to a good education during the 2020-21 school year.
4) Working with the NJ Teachers of English to Students of Other Languages/New Jersey Bilingual Educators (NJTESOL/NJBE) and the Education Law Center (ELC) and using this information to develop policy recommendations.
5) Formatting the report and assisting with ideas for outreach (specifically the graphic design involved in social media).
My hope is that the report which I helped author this summer (with a scheduled press release of early September) will help the New Jersey legislatures, as well as other involved parties, realize how integral it is for New Jersey to make systemic changes to the Bilingual Code, and to ensure that current and future provisions of the Code are actually enforced, so that educational systems do not continue to fail ELs.
The powerful experiences shared with me by immigrant parents, and ESL and Bilingual educators serve as the building blocks around which New Jersey schools can create, and reinforce, equity structures within school districts as a new academic year and new era in education begins. I am grateful for the opportunity given to me by the ’68 Center for Career Exploration and the Class of 1972.