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Expert: Considering Students' Home Language Could Help School Performance

Hayes Bilingual School in Milwaukee scores 62.2 on the state report card system. That means it’s just shy of meeting expectations. Most MPS schools fall at or below that level, but Hayes is different. Its growth score is 86 – well above the state average. The school’s dual-immersion approach seems to be generating improvements in both math and reading.

To Anita Pandey, schools like Hayes illustrate the need to consider language in education – and not just at specialized schools. Pandey is a professor of linguistics and coordinator of Professional Communication at Morgan State University in Baltimore. In her new book, Language Building Blocks,” she argues deeper consideration of home languages and dialects could help a range of students.

"Unless the teachers have professional development or have been trained in cultural diversity and are embracing the home language, then the student are not going to be performing at the level we’re looking to see," she says.

Pandey applied her research to Milwaukee’s diverse student population, and argued an increased focus on language could help Milwaukee students learn.