Acquiring language for educational demands

Language acquistion is the key to academic success

When there’s inequity in learning, it’s usually baked into life, Harvard analysts say.

Source: The Costs of Inequality: Education Is the Key to It All – US News

Language is the key to academic success. A few students from backgrounds with limited resources do well often because they love reading and in that way acquire the vocabulary and language skills they need to succeed.  Starting in kindergarten formal education requires and attempts to develop vocabulary, knowledge of grammar,  syntax, and morphology, but if children have limited outside exposure they may not thrive. the ability to use language effectively is key to academic success. For many families, the acquisition starts at home, but for children from undereducated communities, they start at a disadvantage and never really catch up. Do our public schools do enough in the area of language to level the playing field for those kids?

US News published an article 2 /16/16, The Costs of Inequality: Education Is the Key to It All in which they state that education is the great equalizer.  Yes, it is but what is amazing is the fact in spite of knowing that we let many children fall through the cracks. As a country, we continue to provide students from lower social economic areas and students for whom English is a second language limited language support.  In Cambridge students from another country are not offered language support throughout their academic careers. They do receive limited direct language instruction and then they are phased out of ESL programs. Students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds maybe an environment where reading is not valued, slang which is a language of code and is neither explicit or direct. Where one word can mean multiple things depending on the context. It’s not that these kids can’t learn language at home they have a complex communication system but it is not the language of the work world, and education is about preparing students for that world.

We know that language in many communities is used differently than language in the classroom, yet we expect students from a variety of backgrounds to compete on the same level as students from educated households with better resources. These children will bring great value to the work world if we do right by them.  Honoring a child’s dialect, but at the same time teaching them when and where to use that dialect, will allow them to use language to self-advocate, negotiate and for critical thinking in addition to providing additional language support when and where needed is critical in supporting strong language acquisition for academic success. We will have fewer people going to jail and more people with money to spend who can support our society, so why do we continue to block access to support and underfund schools in poor neighborhoods?