Ultimately, teacher attitude and behavior is vital to helping LEP students succeed, argues Gil Valdez, Ph.D., Deputy Director, NCREL, and Director of the North Central Eisenhower Mathematics and Science Consortium.
Oh, yes. In a final analysis, it's all about the teacher. And if a teacher doesn't believe a student can learn because they happen to not speak English, or they speak with wrong context or wrong order, then it's all over.
But if a teacher can look beyond that, and look for true understanding and true contribution, and then wait later for the language to have the beautiful context and syntax, then the student is given a chance to both grow in terms of knowledge and in terms of language acquisition.
But if you use language as the gatekeeper and you assume that because a person can't pass a test developed for English speakers, that they also don't know anything about science or don't know anything about math, which is even more the case -- so many times, other language cultures and countries may have an even better mathematics understanding than we do -- it all can be lost if they use the wrong assessment.
I think too often students who are learning English are also judged to be intellectually inferior when, in fact, it's just the wrong judgement -- wrong judgement because they're testing and assessing the wrong thing. They're assessing language knowledge in English, not knowledge in mathematics or in science.