Neal Cuthbert: New MN law supports English language learners, among our greatest assets

Below is Vice President of Program Neal Cuthbert’s foreword from The Learning for English Academic Proficiency and Success Act: Ensuring Faithful and Timely Implementation, a new McKnight-commissioned report by Conor P. Williams, Ph.D., and Colleen Gross Ebinger examining the 2014 LEAPS Act, the nation”s most comprehensive legislation in support of English learners.

This report was commissioned by The McKnight Foundation, as part of McKnight’s “Food for Thought” series — independent essays and research that help inform our understanding of the fields in which we operate and our related program strategies.

McKLEAPSMcKnight’s early literacy program supports efforts to dramatically increase the percentage of third-grade readers, especially among populations underserved in our schools. For three years, we have partnered with the University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute and seven Twin Cities elementary schools — we call them our Pathway Schools — to infuse deep supports aimed at improving literacy instruction, assessment, and school leadership.

In our schools, we see casino online a reflection of our community and its growing diversity. In particular, nearly 60 percent of students in our seven Pathway Schools do not speak English at home. We are consistently impressed by the dedication our school staff shows for supporting these students, but — given the unique needs of students working to build literacy skills in two languages (their own and English) — we also see these staff members struggle to understand how best to develop their students’ academic potential.

That’s why we were glad to see Minnesota’s policymakers turn their attention to English Language Learners in the last session. The Learning for English Academic Proficiency and Success (LEAPS) Act represents one of the nation’s most comprehensive pieces of legislation aimed at supporting language learners, calling for — among other things — improved teacher preparation and professional development, assessment, instruction, and family engagement. However, the potential positive impact of this policy is in its implementation. And there are implementation hurdles ahead for LEAPS.

In August, we convened nearly 40 experts from across Minnesota and its diverse communities to share their thoughts on how state agencies, school districts, charters, and colleges of education can rise to meet the ambitious challenge set by LEAPS. We also consulted with Conor P. Williams, Ph.D., of the New America Foundation, who helped us understand LEAPS in the context of a national movement. In this brief, you will find the collected wisdom of both local and national thought leaders. We anticipate that the guidance presented here will help Minnesota lead the nation in developing one of its greatest assets — English Language Learners.

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NIC_mck0103_cNeal Cuthbert
Vice President of Program