There are over 5 million multilingual learners in the United States. They represent one of the fastest-growing student populations. This means that schools and districts across the country must ensure that their teachers are prepared to educate them. Yet, a recent survey found that 70% of teachers do not feel prepared to teach multilingual learners.
How can we help teachers feel more prepared to support their multilingual students?
Professional learning (PL) providers are one of the most important answers to this question. They provide training opportunities that allow teachers to learn specific techniques, get introduced to new curriculum materials, and have a chance to dedicate much-needed time to focus on developing their skills. These opportunities can and do improve student outcomes.
As more educators work in classrooms with increasing numbers of multilingual learners, professional learning organizations must also adapt. Professional learning providers must incorporate the needs and assets of these students in ways that are inclusive, culturally aware, and sustainable. PL providers have an incredible opportunity to make a difference in supporting teachers.
At ELSF, we work with PL providers to make sure they are equipped with the tools and resources they need to provide meaningful support to teachers, centering multilingual learners in the process. That’s why we’re so excited to be an affiliate with the Research Partnership for Professional Learning (RPPL). RPPL brings together professional learning organizations and researchers who study teacher development. They work to identify the features of professional learning that improve students’ classroom experiences, well-being, and academic growth, with a specific focus on students from historically marginalized groups. To date, there has been little research conducted into what features and conditions in professional learning will move the needle for multilingual learners so RPPL’s work is timely and necessary.
ELSF will be RPPL’s first affiliate that specializes in the needs of multilingual learners specifically. We’re honored to step into this role and we can’t wait to expand our efforts as part of the RPPL network of partners.
ELSF will bring years of experience developing research-backed frameworks, guidance, and support to RPPL’s initiatives. RPPL’s ambitious learning agenda is focused on developing teacher learning opportunities to improve student outcomes at scale, seamlessly aligning with ELSF’s efforts to equip PL providers with the skills needed to effectively support teachers who educate multilingual learners.
RPPL focuses on studying what works in professional learning. This research will accelerate teacher skill development, develop and sustain teacher expertise, and strengthen equitable instructional practices. Many of their research topics are focused on addressing fundamental questions about PL at scale. In the future, multilingual learners will be included in the research agenda from the start, leading to more effective insight. We can ensure that professional learning providers have the knowledge and skills they need to support teachers in meeting the needs of their linguistically marginalized students.
And that’s only the beginning. Much of ELSF’s work focuses on laying the groundwork. We dedicate time and energy to helping stakeholders understand the importance of prioritizing multilingual learners. This is important and valuable work. We will have the opportunity to work more closely with a broad range of organizations and thought leaders within the RPPL affiliate community. These are partners and organizations who are eager to improve their support to multilingual learners. As an RPPL affiliate, we can engage with peer organizations to create large-scale systems change for multilingual learners together.
We are excited to work with RPPL and its affiliates to meet the challenges they’re currently facing in being inclusive of multilingual learners. Together, we can transform the professional learning ecosystem providing the insight and tools necessary to create a world where effective, high-quality professional learning opportunities and supports designed with multilingual students in mind are the norm.
The more we’re able to work with professional learning providers, and the more we can scale our impact with partners like RPPL, the more we can ensure that multilingual learners are being centered in efforts to support teachers and improve student outcomes.