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Duration: 00:23:12



[Maria] Hello everyone. This is Maria Carreira from the National Heritage Language Resource Center at UCLA. The focus of this podcast is community-based heritage schools. And to talk to us about his topic we have Dr. Joy Kreeft Peyton, who is a team leader at the Coalition of Community-Based Heritage Schools and also Senior Fellow at the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington D.C. Welcome Joy, we're delighted to have you.

[Joy] Thank you, Maria. It's such a pleasure to have the chance to talk to you. You and I have worked together on heritage language issues for a long time and I'm so happy we get to talk about community-based schools.

[Maria] It's 21 years, Joy! I know that because of my daughter's age! [laughing]

[Joy] I don't want to think about that! [laughing]

[Maria] So, Joy. Let's start with the basics: The concept of community-based heritage schools. In a few minutes, can you summarize for people who not be familiar with this concept what they are about, how they differ from regular schools - mainstream schools - and why we should care about them.

[Joy] Yes, I will. So, community-based heritage language schools in the United States - and we're talking about in the United States because it differs in other countries - are usually non-profit organizations founded and operated by parents who are from a specific immigrant or heritage language community. They live usually in a community where the language is spoken. So, the purpose of the schools is to maintain and teach or develop the language and culture of their and their children's heritage language spoken in their country of origin. But, as I said, the language is usually spoken in the home or in the community, or both. These schools might offer classes for students from Pre-K to grade 12, beginning very young at some point... some point, then going all the way through grade 12... and then sometimes include adults. In many of these schools and increasingly, non-heritage language speakers are welcomed as well - not in all of them, but in some. So, these schools... it's important to realize that these schools operate outside of the public and private school systems. Often, the local schools - public and private - don't even know that they exist. Or, they often rent space in public or private schools on weekends or after school during the week, usually throughout the school year. But they also meet in churches, libraries, and other public spaces. What's important to realize is that these schools supplement the education that students receive in their regular school - the public or private school they attend. And they often teach a language that is not taught in the local or public/private school at all. They are often administer U.S. language tests and often test used in the home country if appropriate assessment exists and are available. What's interesting to me to think about is that according to the 2015 Census, more than 350 languages are spoken in homes in the United States. How many of these languages are taught in community-based schools is a really important question. So far, we - the coalition - have identified schools teaching 36 languages. If anybody's interested, I would be happy to tell you what languages they are but it's very clear to me and to us that we have a long way to go.

[Maria] Absolutely! 36 out of 350, did you say?

[Joy] Yeah, yeah. We've identified schools teaching 36 languages.

[Maria] We definitely have a way to go.

[Joy] We do. We're continuing to work on it, which I'll talk about later.

[Maria] Yes! So, Joy, what I hear you saying is that one key feature of community-based heritage schools is that they operate outside the regular school system and supplement the education... language education of students.

[Joy] Right.

[Maria] Another thing I heard you saying is that they are non-profit and typically operated, created, run by parents and community members.

[Joy] Right, right.

[Maria] However, my understanding is that community schools are not all the same, right? They come in different configurations, serve different student populations, and have different pedagogical approaches and goals. So, what this tells me is that parents who want to start a community-based school or want to participate in an existing one have different options. Can you tell us a little bit about these different options?

[Joy] Yeah. I'll tell you what different schools are doing so you can see the great diversity and richness. So, usually the character of a school and the focus of a school grows out of the culture that's associated with the language taught and also with the vision, experiences, and the preferences of both the parents and the teachers who are involved. So, here are some examples. Some schools have strong cultural components. In fact, they focus very strongly on culture with classes in art, music, dance, drama, martial arts and other areas. Some focus more on language proficiency and building that over time, and assessing how that's going. Some have strong parent involvement, with parents coming to teach classes and to help in other ways. In some schools, parents actually don't just drop their children off but they meet in the school to converse in the language while their children go to the classes. Some schools have summer camps, and STARTALK and other initiatives. Some bring in business people, community leaders and visiting diplomats to talk with the students about how they use the language in their lives and work, and inspire the students... motivate them to want to learn the language. Some give homework, others don't. Some focus more on young children and it's a young children's program while others, as I said before, go all the way through high school... prepare students to take the AP exam in the language or to take college entrance exams in the country where the language is spoken. So, in the German School of Connecticut, I visited and I interviewed a student in the 10th grade. And had already passed the college entrance exam in Germany at that point. Increasingly, schools are seeking to help students earn the Seal of Biliteracy or the Global Seal when they graduate. So, they're working on that. I wish I could show some photos or videos that would allow you to see the richness and diversity of these schools because it's just amazing to see them. Now, you asked earlier in an earlier question why these schools matter and I think we can see just from this list that these schools are building knowledge and proficiency in addition to what students are developing in their regular schooling. And this is a strong part of their learning profile that all of us, I think, benefit from recognizing. So, does what I said help you in thinking about what people might focus on when they're founding a school?

[Maria] That's excellent Joy. And how does the Coalition of Community-Based Schools fit into all of this? What is this organization? What does it do? Why does it exist? And what languages and communities does it serve?

[Joy] Yeah. Well, the coalition was formed a number of years ago - actually, after one of the National Heritage Language Resource Center conferences where a group of people came together and said, "Hey! There are these community schools - thousands of them - and we want to pull them together. So, in 1960 Joshua Fishmen had identified through his research nearly 2,000 community-based schools and in 1980, there were 6,000 schools. And we have not had a study since then... a study like he did, to know how many of these schools there are. But they're often very much working in isolation - certainly, separately from community-based schools teaching other languages. I mean, I already said they're working in isolation from public and private schools but also separately from those teaching other languages and often not connecting with other schools that are teaching same language. So, we wanted to and we still want to bring these schools together to share experiences, challenges, best practices... [pause] We also want to make them visible to U.S. educators - school staff, school districts, U.S. Department of Education... we're working on that. Politicians, State Boards of Educations, State Representatives... to community members, to researchers, and to other stakeholders... and to help them recognize the value of these schools. We also want to document all of the schools so that we can learn from each other and so that these schools will be included in statistics about language education in the United States which - up until now - they are not. And then we want to help create ways that students in these schools can receive recognition and credit for their language proficiency - high school credit, AP credit, the Seal of Biliteracy and things like that. So, also we want to create connections - as I said - and provide information and resources on important topics that school staff are thinking about through the coalition website, Facebook page, forums, papers, webinars and our annual conference. And I'll talk about those at the end when we talk about how you can get involved.

[Maria] Yes.

[Joy] So, just one more thing: One thing that we recognize... [pause] We are a small team and we know that we can't do these things by ourselves. So, we work with a group of language representatives, which are educational leaders in different language communities who reach out to and involve their communities in this work collaborating with us. Yeah, that's the end of the part. [laughing]

[Maria] So, you're doing a lot of work to support and grow community language schools?

[Joy] Yes, that's our goal. Yes.

[Maria] I think as a parent, Joy, that I'm just amazed at the amount of dedication, work and sacrifice that it takes to start - let alone run - a community school. So, I would think in the area of providing support this is one of the most important things that the coalition does. What are some of the challenges associated with starting and running a community-based school? And how does the Coalition of Community-Based Schools help with these challenges?

[Joy] Yeah, very good question. I just want to repeat: It takes so much dedication, work and sacrifice. It's amazing. So, I'll just mention four of the challenges that schools are facing. One is to ensure that the school... that a program is interesting, engaging for all students, involves them throughout their school years and is building their knowledge and proficiency for participation in the 21st century so that they don't feel like they're being held back... pulled away from other things. So, to do this the school has to recruit, retain and prepare teachers... maintain and build student enrollment... engage parents and, of course, implement effective instruction and find ways for students' proficiency to be recognized. That's challenge number one. That's kind of big. Second: Find ways to reach out to and work together with the local language community and with other schools in order to accomplish some of these things. Number three: Maintain adequate funding. I don't like to put that one first, but it's huge.

[Maria] Yes.

[Joy] Run the program well, pay teachers, purchase materials and, usually, pay the rent in the place that they're meeting. And then finally, address all kinds of other practice program issues, which include making the school visible in the community, managing the budget, paying taxes, having human resources that are needed... [pause] So, those are four big areas of challenges. The coalition is seeking to address these issues and others, and to provide information for those who are seeking to address these challenges. Our annual conference - which I'll give a little more information about in a minute - is one place where we bring in speakers and hold workshops on these challenges, and on the best practices that school leaders say are important to them.

[Maria] So, these best practices are often not know to parents because they're not professional teachers or school administrators, right? So, it takes... they have to learn a lot to run a school and run it well. It's outside their realm of expertise often.

[Joy] Yeah, often. Although they develop it over time and there are some highly knowledgeable and proficient people running and working in these programs. But still, they want help, yes, and resources.

[Maria] And that's what you provide through Coalition of Community-Based Schools.

[Joy] Yes, that's our goal. Yes.

[Maria] So, the coalition has an important new initiative in that regard. Can you tell us about it?

[Joy] Yes, yes. I'd love to. As I mentioned before, effective instruction and instructional strategies that engage students, help them to develop their language proficiency and keep them involved throughout their school years is an incredibly important focus and challenge for teachers in these schools. Your work, Maria, on project-based learning... project-based learning with heritage language learners has opened an important new door for us. We held a workshop on project-based learning with you leading it at our conference in 2018 and we'll hold a workshop on that topic at our next conference. Also, with you, we're launching an initiative focused on this topic. We are going to provide a video on our webpage that clearly describes how to implement project-based learning with a handbook that gives many ideas and resources. And we're also going to provide examples of project-based learning implemented in some community-based schools. We're planning to make these available... send them out in June, and then give community-based schools the opportunity to describe their own approaches to project-based learning. And we'll post all of this information on our webpage and our Facebook page, describe it at our conference and at other upcoming language conferences, like we hold ACTFL. So, if anybody would like to know about it and participate in this initiative, please email me and I'll you to our mailing list. And my email is joy@peytons.us.

[Maria] Joy, what is so great about project-based learning? And why does it work so well in the community school context?

[Joy] Well, what's so great about it is that it's engaging and it's focused on real-world issues that students care about. And why is it important for community-based schools? Because that's what is going to engage the students. This is things that they either know about, work on, are involved in day-to-day, or things that they're striving to learn about for the future. And it's starts with where I am, who I am, what I know, what my background knowledge is and then it builds from there so that I just keep learning about this area. It's topic-focused and the topic is chosen by the teacher or parent who knows the children. Is that clear, or...? Maria, is that a clear enough answer?

[Maria] Absolutely, absolutely. And with this new initiative, what you want to do is document really great projects that have been tried...

[Joy] Yes.

[Maria] ... implemented in community language schools, and that others can adapt and implement in their own schools.

[Joy] Yes, yes. Exactly. First, we want to give examples of great projects so that people have ideas. Then, we want people to send their great projects that other people can implement. And we want to continue this sharing over time so that we just get more and more ideas, more and more information and people have great ideas to implement with things in all languages at all ages. That would be wonderful.

[Maria] Right. So, all ages and levels, right? Which is what's great about project-based learning.

[Joy] Right.

[Maria] You can create a whole range of projects going from very, very elementary low proficiency levels and even low age for young learners, and move all the way up to college if you want to.

[Joy] Right, college and adults, yes. Adults (inaudible), yes, absolutely.

[Maria] Excellent, Joy. And finally - as we're getting near the end of this podcast - for our listeners who want to learn more about the coalition and perhaps join it or get involved... and also in a project-based initiative... [pause] Where do they go for more information? What can they do?

[Joy] Okay, yeah. So, to get more information they can... you can visit our website and visit our Facebook page. So, our website is hertiagelanguageschools.org/coalition. If you go to Google and just type in "Coalition of Community-Based Language Schools," it will come up. And then our Facebook page is on our website, but on Facebook it's just "HeritageLanguageSchools as one word. So, we're posting information there, we're continuing to update it and we would love to hear from people about what would be helpful to you. Then to become involved... there are a number of ways that we can all get involved. First of all, come to our conference. It will be Saturday, October 12th at American University in Washington, D.C. and we have a growing group of people - and more and more languages - participating every year. We would love for you to be involved.

[Maria] Can you tell us what some of those languages are, Joy?

[Joy] Sure, sure. I'll just give a few examples: Bulgarian, Chinese, Czech, Portuguese, Lithuanian, Polish, Spanish, Hindi, Urdu... those are a few.

[Maria] Excellent. Okay.

[Joy] And as I said, new people come every year. And so, our group grows. And what happens is once people start connecting with us through the conference or just even through email, some people say: "Well, I would like to become a language representative because I see that the schools teaching my language are not very involved here." And so, they... people become a language representative, work with their language community on issues that are important to them, bring them to the conference, document these schools... [pause] So, the second way to become involved is to be a language representative and I'd be happy to explain it to anybody who would like. Another way is to document your community-based school or other schools you know about in our school survey - and I can send the link to the survey... it's also on our website - and to get involved in our project-based learning initiative, which will be on the webpage. It's not yet, but it will be soon... it will be in June. So, in the mean time if your write to me - joy@peytons.us - I'll send you the information you need for the ways you'd like to be involved. I can send you the announcement about the conference, the link to the survey... all of those things. And we would love to connect with you and collaborate with you online.

[Maria] So, there are many ways to be involved...

[Joy] Yes.

[Maria] ... and much work to be done.

[Joy] Yes, yes. Even if you're writing a paper, we would love to work with you on that, yes. Okay.

[Maria] Wonderful! [laughing] Well, Joy, thank you so much for sharing information about this important topic and for your work on the Coalition of Community-Based Language Schools and, of course, the Center for Applied Linguistics. You really are a pioneer in the field of heritage languages and we're very lucky for that.

[Joy] Well, thank you Maria. And thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk with you about this topic that I am very passionate about. And I look forward to seeing you at our conference in October.

[Maria] Wonderful. Thank you.

[Joy] Thanks, Maria.