My name is Ruth Kriteman. I have lived and worked in the state of New Mexico for many years. I love it here; there is so much that makes it a great place to live: the high desert climate, the incredibly warm people, the abundance of cool places to visit, great indoor and outdoor activities, the diverse cultural experiences, and green and red chile, which we put on EVERYTHING!
New Mexico prides itself on being a multicultural state. We tout our minority-majority status and the fact that our state constitution states that the legislature will provide for the training of teachers in both English and Spanish to qualify them to teach Spanish-speaking children. It further states that children of Spanish-speaking descent should never be denied admission to public institutes of learning and should never be placed in separate schools. We also have an Indian Education Act that stipulates that our department of education partner with tribal leadership to ensure equitable and culturally relevant learning environments, materials and educational opportunities for Indigenous students, as well as an assurance that Native languages are maintained. Our state Public Education Department includes a Language and Culture Division and provides for funding for bilingual multicultural programs in our schools.
In many ways we are justified in our pride; there are many wonderful educational opportunities for our culturally and linguistically different students. But reality is often more complicated.
In 2018 attorneys from MALDEF and the Center for Law and Poverty filed a consolidated lawsuit (Martinez v. State of New Mexico and Yazzie v. State of New Mexico) against the state of New Mexico for its failure to provide all public-school students a sufficient education as mandated by the New Mexico Constitution. The consolidated lawsuit (Yazzie/Martinez v. the State of New Mexico) challenged the state’s failure to provide students—especially students of color, 61% of whom are Latino, 11% Native American, 2% African American and 1% Asian American, English learners, and students with disabilities—the programs and services necessary for them to learn and thrive. The lawsuit also challenged the state’s failure to sufficiently fund these programs. The Court agreed and ordered the state to address the violations.
My organization, Dual Language Education of New Mexico, along with our community and many partner organizations, was ecstatic! Here was our big chance to advocate for our dual language community and put some best practices into place both for bilingual multicultural and English-only ESL/ELD programs that we support with a variety of instructional frameworks and approaches, including OCDE Project GLAD®. I wish I could say that big broad steps were taken to address the violations. As with most things, the political game is messy. The good news is that DLeNM continues to partner with other educational entities and advocacy groups. We have a number of colleagues from our institutes of higher learning who help inform our work as we build our research and foundational practices. We continue to have a close and supportive relationship with Project GLAD®’s National Training Center. But we have also taken on some activities on our own that I think align well with the notion of liberatory learning, culturally responsive teaching, social justice standards, and Gholdy Muhammad’s call to action.
DLeNM is made up of a small but mighty group of very committed educators. We have long advocated for our Spanish-English bilingual multicultural programs. The people of our state’s northern counties maintain a very strong Spanish identity established and nurtured by the many years of isolation after the Spanish explorers came in search of cities of gold. Many still speak an archaic form of Spanish that can be traced back to those earlier settlers. We recognize the very important space New Mexican Spanish-language heritage students have in our state’s programs. So many previous generations of native Spanish speakers were punished for using their language that they vowed to only speak English to their children. As in many places, this created generations of children who lost touch with their family language and the potential connections with their traditions, as well as grandparents and other members of their extended families. Our proximity to Mexico also puts us in a prime position to receive many waves of immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries.
While we have always maintained respectful connections with educators and other leaders of our state’s 19 Pueblos (who may be Tiwa, Towa, Tewa, or Keres speakers), the Navajo Nation (Diné), and three Apache tribes, recent work has allowed us to partner more closely with those looking to stem language shift and revitalize their languages. This exciting work has prompted a significant learning curve! The Pueblo languages are private, which means that they cannot be shared with those outside of their communities. They are also oral languages and cannot be written. Diné and the Apache languages may be written, but the focus in the schools is on building oral language proficiency. The languages are all tied to community life and important cultural and religious traditions that are critical to the communities’ identities. It is essential that the children maintain that.
New Mexico has also long received immigrants from other language groups. Back in the 70’s many Southeast Asians arrived in our state and have since settled in as active members of our communities. More recently, refugees from Afghanistan, Syria, the Republic of Congo, and other countries in conflict have come into our schools, prompting a critical ESL/ELD response at all levels.
Whew – lots to think about, respond to, plan for, and address! First and foremost, DLeNM’s leadership team participates at every level of advocacy in our state’s legislature. We work closely with Transform Education New Mexico (TENM), a coalition of education, tribal, and community leaders who advance a vision for public education in response to the Yazzie/Martínez lawsuit. Every year TENM puts forth a suite of legislative priorities based on its platform of validation and support of our communities’ cultural and linguistic heritage. Staff members are often called upon to provide expert testimony to our legislators or support them with research and talking points. We are proud and active members of the NM Coalition for the Majority, an organization of educators, members of our state’s institutes of higher learning, and policy makers that represent linguistically and culturally diverse minority-majority student populations. We are currently hard at work developing biliteracy guidance for our Spanish-English bilingual multicultural program teachers with support from NM Public Education Department’s Literacy and Humanities, Curriculum and Instruction, and Language and Culture Divisions. This document will accompany the NM Statewide Literacy Framework. DLeNM staff will also review the literacy framework for cultural and linguistic responsiveness and amend that document to reflect that pedagogy.
Our professional development offerings include the following instructional supports and resources: OCDE Project GLAD® – of course, AIM4S3™ – a framework that deepens students’ mathematical learning by sheltering mathematics content to make it comprehensible and accessible to all students, CLAVES™ – a framework that provides educational stakeholders with professional learning needed to create an environment of differentiated, inclusive, and validating instruction for schools that serve culturally and linguistically divers students, with an emphasis on English learners, and Literacy Squared® – a comprehensive biliteracy program designed by Dr. Kathy Escamilla and her team to accelerate the development of biliteracy in Spanish-English speaking children, from CU Boulder.
Our programmatic offerings include Initial Site Evaluation Visits, Program Planning Retreats, Sustainability Follow-Up Retreats, and Support for Tribal Communities—all intended to support districts and schools in ensuring that dual language, bilingual multicultural, and English language programs start off on the right foot and build understandings and practices that will foster sustainability and capacity building at all levels.
Both instructional and programmatic offerings now include a significant foundation designed to develop an asset perspective. We have learned that all of the great instructional protocols and strategies we share must be well grounded in viewing the students with an asset lens. In addition to Project GLAD®’s many activities designed to anchor participants in cultural responsiveness, our professional development coordinators have infused all of our offerings with activities and discussions around who are students are, what communities they come from, how we view and refer to them, how we validate their identities, and how we help them make connections to the content. Our quarterly newsletter, Soleado – for which I serve as lead editor, has published many articles on both these activities and the resulting conversations among participants.
We have always developed the notion of differentiation as a way to provide the instructional staff we interact with, as well as the students in the communities we serve, with equitable resources and support to achieve their educational goals. We are intensely aware of the wide-ranging gifts each partner community brings to our relationships, as well as their needs. For that reason, our instructional and programmatic offerings are tailored to each group. It would certainly be easier to create off-the-shelf trainings to share with any district or school we engage with! Instead, we include needs assessments, observations, VISITAS™ – our learning walks protocol, and end-of-session evaluations and reflections to plan our professional development. Our PD coordinators are notorious for after-day-one revamping of PowerPoint slides, activities, and materials shared! It makes for a long, sleepless evening, but we take great pride in our tailored offerings.
Our Support for Tribal Communities always begin with community forums in order to engage elders, parents, Tribal leadership, school leadership and staff, and other community members. Significant time and energy must be given to understand the devastating role colonization has played in the linguistic, cultural, and emotional life of the community. These are hard discussions to witness and be a part of. The hurt and grief colonization has generated are deeply felt and have had devastating effect on these communities. All of us must take responsibility to understand and address them. Discussions and other forms of input help us understand the role Tribal languages have in the community, members’ hopes for their role in future generations, the ways that the language can be shared in schools, and the language domains that are critical for revitalization.
Our work with national partners has also informed our mindset and the work we do. We learn so much from our partners in California, Washington State, Oregon, Texas, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Colorado, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Alaska, and Illinois. Each of those states have their own successes and struggles and we learn from them. Our annual conference, La Cosecha, brings many participants from these states and others, as well as other countries and tribal communities to New Mexico. We are privileged to share with them, learn from them, and plan and create with them. As with all activities related to the multicultural/multilingual world we are a part of, we are reminded that there is far more that connects us than that separates us. The Indigenous community members who come to La Cosecha from Mexico have many of the same struggles with the effects of colonization as Indigenous community members from New Mexico, Alaska, and Hawaii. Our Spanish-speaking colleagues from the East Coast may speak a different dialect, but are also looking for better ways to engage their community and offer their children a way to learn English, continue to build their Spanish, and become bilingual and biliterate. The third pillar of dual language education, in addition to developing strong academic and language skills in both program languages, is the development of sociocultural competence. That speaks directly to issues of equity, cultivating all students’ gifts and talents, ensuring that students receive what they need in order to be successful, and thus, transforming the power structure in schools and in society.
In order to truly understand equity, culturally and linguistically responsive pedagogy, social justice, and the liberatory mindset, we decided, as a staff, to begin an intensive book study of Glenn Singleton’s Courageous Conversations About Race. This book study is now a part of our twice-monthly staff meetings. DLeNM’s staff felt it was important to better understand the role race plays in all that we do—our advocacy efforts, our programmatic and instructional offerings, our work with diverse communities. We felt that we needed to truly practice what we preach. Staff members take turns leading the book study and the activities related to the chapters. These activities include self-reflection, discussions, watching related video clips, and engaging in local, national, and world-wide events. They have helped us identify issues with which we are still unfamiliar and plan for ways to address those gaps.
Staff meetings and planning sessions also focus on aligning our evaluation framework to the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of our advocacy work and professional development offerings. We look closely at the stated goals and outcomes of our work to make sure that we evaluate the right things! This study has moved us to rework our content to better align with what we hope to achieve, and study and investigate the work being done around equity, cultural and linguistic responsiveness, power transformation, and identity.
The work is intense, never-ending, often challenging and, ultimately, riveting and life-changing. As I said earlier, DLeNM is made up of a mighty group of dedicated educators. We feel fortunate to engage in this work! Like any educational experience, the road to new learning follows a path of twists and turns and includes missteps and mastery. We are grateful to be a part of this multicultural/multilingual community. ¡Seguimos con la cosecha!