Overview:

The Biden-Harris Administration today unveiled the “Being Bilingual is a Superpower” initiative, spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Education.

In a move to underscore the importance of multilingualism in the educational landscape, the Biden-Harris Administration today unveiled the “Being Bilingual is a Superpower” initiative, spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Education. The initiative aims to promote and enhance multilingual education, focusing on advancing high-quality language programs and fostering a diverse multilingual educator workforce throughout the nation.

Under the umbrella of the Department’s Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA), “Being Bilingual is a Superpower” will advocate for the recognition of bilingualism and biliteracy as not only an educational but also an economic imperative for student success, global competitiveness, and increased engagement.

“Make no mistake: multilingualism is a superpower. Knowing more than one language, acquiring a new language through school, or learning new languages later in life can provide tangible academic, cognitive, economic, and sociocultural advantages,” emphasized U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “As our nation continues to grow more diverse, and as our global economy becomes more interconnected, we cannot seize our nation’s full potential to compete and lead the world unless we Raise the Bar and provide all students with opportunities to become multilingual.”

National Convening

To kick off the initiative, the Department of Education hosted a national convening on Thursday, November 16, in Washington, D.C. The event provided a platform for Secretary Cardona to share his vision and the Department’s strategies to offer every student a pathway to multilingualism. Additionally, the convening featured a roundtable conversation with experts from around the country who have played pivotal roles in developing policies, processes, programs, and practices necessary for English Learners and all students to access high-quality language programs.

To galvanize support for multilingual learning, the Department is actively engaging members of Congress and educational leaders who champion the cause. The goal is to prioritize multilingual education to meet the needs of diverse communities and ensure 21st-century career readiness and global competitiveness.

Data on Multilingualism

Recent data indicates that only about 20 percent of the U.S. population speaks more than one language. To address this gap, OELA announced nearly $120 million in investments last year to support educators of English learner students. The Department is also proposing the reorganization of its Title III programming, supporting the success of English Learners, back into the Office of English Language Acquisition.

In alignment with the multilingual agenda, the Department awarded $33.2 million in 24 new grants to Native Hawaiian educational and community-based organizations and entities in Hawaii through the Native Hawaiian Education (NHE) program. These funds will be directed towards innovative educational programs focusing on Hawaiian language-medium instruction, culture-based education, mental health initiatives, and school renovation projects.

Furthermore, the Department has allocated almost $2 million in grants under the Native American and Alaska Native Children in School Program (NAM). These funds aim to enhance capacity and provide effective instruction and support to Native American students who are English learners, with a focus on promoting equity in student access to educational resources.

Resources

Secretary Cardona also released a letter sharing resources for English Learner students, including Raise the Bar Metrics, data visualizations, the completed English Language Family Toolkit, and a Seal of Biliteracy Infographic. These resources, available in multiple languages, aim to empower educators, leaders, and families to support English Learners and Multilingual Learners meaningfully.

As part of the broader toolkit initiative, OELA’s Family Toolkit app will soon be available in Arabic, English, Chinese, and Spanish, accessible on both Android and Apple devices, further enhancing accessibility and engagement for diverse communities across the nation.

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