Episode 84 – A Conversation with Thomas and Collier on Dual Language Realities

It's About Language, with Norah Jones
It's About Language, with Norah Jones
Episode 84 - A Conversation with Thomas and Collier on Dual Language Realities

“When you continue their cognitive development in first language, and you use their first language to increase their level of understanding of the curriculum material, you get a twofer. You get a double set of positive impacts on their achievement, and they really do prosper…. I finally was persuaded the word astounding might actually apply because the effect size is we’ve computed here for all of these studies taken into aggregate a larger than any I have seen as a professional program evaluator for four decades. That’s worth people knowing about. These not only are positive effects, they’re large to very large positive effects when this program is done properly by the schools.”

Dear podcast listeners world-wide, I suspect that many of you know of, have read books and research by, and/or have seen and heard the astonishingly powerful and compelling presentations and workshops by Drs. Wayne Thomas and Virginia Collier. Those of you new to experiencing these compassionate and intelligent pair are in for a true treat, one that can change the trajectory of your life or work. Truly!

Be sure to check out their own website, thomasandcollier.com for the many no-charge resources and reports they offer and refer to in this podcast, as well as for the books that bring important information, data, and structure to programs that are proven, nation-wide and world-wide, to change lives for the better. If you decide to purchase books, don’t forget to use the special coupon code available to you as a listener to this podcast to get a 20% discount.

And remember you can contact them if you want your colleagues and staff to hear them for themselves. All this information is on their website.

In this podcast you’ll hear why Drs. Collier and Thomas are internationally known for their research on long-term school effectiveness for linguistically and culturally diverse students. The specific, data-centered information they provide to local, state, national, and international institutions have allowed these institutions to successfully refine and improve their education programs and to document and validate their successes.

These compassionate professors specialize in school-based programs and research for “at-risk” students, especially students whose first language is not English.

In their collaborative work, Drs. Thomas and Collier have contributed new theoretical perspectives for the field of bilingual/multicultural education. They are well known for developing the Prism Model, a theory and guide to empirical research. This model makes predictions about program effectiveness, from a theoretical perspective.

Data plus heart: a powerful combination that has provided real results in educational systems and institutions all over the country and globe, results that provide hope to young people, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized.

You’re invited to take action on what you hear, for the good of our youth world-wide.

Dr. Virginia Collier is Professor Emerita of Bilingual/Multicultural/ESL Education at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, located in the metropolitan area of Washington, D.C. She is best known for her work with senior researcher, Dr. Wayne Thomas, on school effectiveness for linguistically and culturally diverse students, working with many school districts in all regions of the U.S. over the past 34 years. Spotlighted by the national and international media, their award-winning national research studies have had a substantial impact on school policies throughout the world. Since 1988, Drs. Thomas and Collier have been regularly interviewed by the popular media, with 209 published newspaper articles and interviews on television and radio in the U.S. and abroad, reporting on their continuing research findings. A popular speaker, Dr. Collier has given 250 keynote speeches and 511 invited and refereed presentations to international, national, state, and local conferences over the past 39 years. She and Dr. Thomas have conducted educational leadership training for superintendents, principals, and education policy makers in 32 U.S. states and 15 countries.

For more information on Dr. Virginia Collier visit her About Page, click here.

Dr. Thomas is Professor Emeritus of Evaluation & Research Methodology in the Graduate School of Education at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC. His Ph.D. training and primary professional experience are in program evaluation methodology and social science research methods. He also has extensive experience in designing large-scale databases and developing computer software for purposes of student testing, program evaluation, and educational data management. His research and publications focus on the evaluation of school effectiveness for linguistically and culturally diverse students and Title I students and the evaluation of educational technology applications.

For more information on Dr. Thomas visit his About Page, click here.

At the heart of every learner is a fire waiting… Waiting to absorb, learn, and show what they can learn.

I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I have enjoyed speaking to Dr. Virginia Collier & Dr. Thomas. Feel free to download this episode and “pass them on”!

Enjoy the podcast. And remember my invitation to you: take action on behalf of our young people.

Scroll down for full transcript.

Thank you for always focusing on the possibilities, opportunities and the power of language and what it can do for us individually - and collectively!

Elizabeth Mack

If you've never done #cliftonstrengths, yourself or with your team, don't wait any longer.  Norah Jones of FLUENCY CONSULTING is the one and only to do it! It's all about your super powers: finding & using them to affect positive change in the world. What's not to love?!

Elizabeth Mack
Founder and CEO / Freestyle Languages


Yes, @NorahLulicJones definitely has the talent of "bringing out" the best in others or allowing them to showcase themselves in the best light! Thank you for directing the spotlight on others who have great stories and talents to share with others. 

Lisa Fore


Your podcasts are exceptionally relevant and applicable, thought-provoking and insightful, easy-to-follow and enjoyable!  

Paul Sandrock
Senior Advisor for Language Learning Initiatives / ACTFL


You have an immense talent to draw the best from your participants. 

Richard Brecht


Norah knows how to LISTEN - she really "hears" the message - and the interview is richer because of it.  New questions come from the hearing. 

Terri Marlow

Want to hear more? Access previous episodes, and get to know the wonderful people I talk with through the It’s About Language page, or by clicking on the Podcast tab above. You can also find this week’s episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.

As a certified Gallup Strengths coach, I can provide you or your organization personalized coaching to discover and build on your strengths.

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Click here to start a conversation.


0:00:02.3 Norah Jones: Hi, I’m Norah Jones. Welcome to, It’s About Language. So what is language all about? Well, it’s about learning and sharing, opening doors in education, work and life. Language is about creating communities and creating boundaries. It’s all about the mystery of what makes us human. So our conversations will explore that mystery and the impact of what makes us human. It’s about language in life. It’s about language at work. It’s about language for fun. Welcome to the podcast.

0:00:47.3 Norah Jones: It’s a great pleasure to welcome my very special guests, Dr. Virginia Collier, and Dr. Wayne Thomas. Also, I’ve been invited to be able to address them as Ginger and Wayne during this conversation for all of those that may wonder if I have been too forward, welcome to the podcast.

0:01:09.0 Wayne Thomas: Thank you.

0:01:09.6 Virginia Collier: Thank you, thank you.

0:01:11.2 Norah Jones: It’s a delight to have you here. And because I know that this particular podcast will surprise and delight and also potentially confuse, and certainly challenge my listening audience who come from a wide range of directions in their interest of language, could you please share some aspects of yourselves, what you do and your background that brought you to what you share in books, articles, chapters, presentations, keynotes, et cetera?

0:01:49.4 Wayne Thomas: Well, our work together goes back to the year 1980. Prior to that, I had been a school administrator, a school, a math and physics teacher in high school, and had acquired two graduate degrees, a doctorate included in research and evaluation methodology. Which as my advisor used to say, makes me unusual, there’s not many people like you are running around loose Wayne, he used to say. And so what he meant was that there aren’t that many people running around with an actual degree in how to do research and how to do program evaluation. So Ginger comes at this, and we literally met in the first faculty meeting, we were both young assistant professors in 1980, our first academic jobs. We had been school personnel before that. And she comes at this, and I’ll let her describe her own background, but from my point of view, we are completely different in our backgrounds.

0:02:43.9 Wayne Thomas: I am a computer programming, database designing, program evaluation specialist with a very strong quantitative statistical edge. And she is a language educator, a person with a master’s degree in Spanish and a degree in English as a second language in bilingual education. Is that fair? Alright. So from the very beginning, we were professionally very different. We overlapped almost not at all, which makes it interesting that we’ve now worked together, this is our 40th year since we first met. 35th year of active doing national research studies together. So we fit together because she is more than capable of generating, as one of our friends says, the big theories and the big explanations of how things should be. And I am not so bad at actually analyzing the data sometimes in terms of hundreds and thousands of millions of student records using the tools of data analysis. Basically, I was doing big data before the term big data was invented. I was doing big data in the ’80s, in the ’70s even. And so she is coming from a completely different language education background.

0:03:52.6 Virginia Collier: I grew up part of my childhood in Central America, and that’s where I picked up my Spanish. So I’m a bilingual Spanish English bilingual. My dad was a professor of Latin American history with a specialization in Central America at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. And he needed to collect data every few years. And so in my growing up, when I was four years old, 8, 12, 16, and 18, we were down there for sometimes a year at a time. I missed a lot of school. One of my colleagues introduced me as the product of interrupted schooling. [laughter] That’s a term often used for immigrants who have not had that opportunity to go to school as much as we would like.

0:04:35.6 Norah Jones: Yeah.

0:04:35.8 Virginia Collier: So while I was down there, I would pick up Spanish with friends and then come back and forget it, and then go back down and pick it up again. And so that’s where I acquired my Spanish naturally, not through formal language lessons. I took Spanish language lessons later in high school and college. I had a great master’s degree at American University. And then my daughter was invited, oldest daughter was invited to tend to a bilingual school in one of the public schools in Washington, DC. This was with my first husband. We were first grade. The bilingual program was beginning to be developed, and we just happened to be in the school where that was happening. So then I said, “Do you wanna do this? And you’d be studying half the day in Spanish.” And she said, “Sure.” And then after a few months, she said, “Mom, why didn’t you raise me in Spanish? You’re a bilingual what… ” And it had never occurred to me to do that. I had raised both daughters in only English. I visited her class. It was magical.

0:05:43.2 Virginia Collier: There just happened to have hired two fabulous teachers. The Spanish speaking teacher was from Chile. Eliana Roman, and she’s the most incredible teacher I’ve ever met in my life. I just couldn’t stay away. So as a parent, I was sitting in the classroom just in absolutely intrigued and decided, okay, this is the schooling of the 20th and 21st century for my daughters and for everybody. I, at that time, was a ESL teacher in DC public schools.

0:06:13.2 Wayne Thomas: English was a second Language.

0:06:14.4 Virginia Collier: English was the second language in middle school level. The bilingual program decided to expand into middle school level, and I became the bilingual social studies teacher as well as ESL. I just got really passionate about this idea that all kids need to get schooling through two languages, that that’s the best way to acquire a language rather than formally be taught the language to pick it up through the curriculum. That became my passion, and I focused on that in my doctorate at the University of Southern California and ended up bilingual professor and help get the field of bilingual education rolling in terms of schooling for linguistically and culturally diverse students to participate in schooling where they’re getting schooling in their home language as well as English. Yeah.

0:07:00.8 Wayne Thomas: So by the time we met in 1980, she was already full of enthusiasm and passion about, “Bilingual education is for everyone, or it should be,” and I’m going, “What?”

0:07:11.4 Virginia Collier: He thought I was… He thought I was crazy.


0:07:13.2 Virginia Collier: Well…

0:07:13.9 Norah Jones: It’s a good perspective though.

0:07:15.6 Wayne Thomas: I was not unexperienced or inexperienced in education at all, and my first reaction was, “I don’t know about that.” But I know how to find out. And so that led to the next 35 years worth of joint research.

0:07:27.7 Virginia Collier: We proposed, “Well, we could analyze data and see what happens.” It all took off from there. So our partnership research formed eventually marriage partnership.

0:07:36.9 Wayne Thomas: One thing did lead to another.

0:07:37.2 Virginia Collier: Yes.

0:07:38.3 Norah Jones: That is brilliant. And I’d like to tap on that. I don’t know about that, that you still can channel, Wayne, because therein lies some of the aspects of when I look on your website, which will be highly promoted on my website, fluency.consulting, your website, thomasandcollier.com, I especially am fond of reading the testimonials because there are stories that emerge from you taking a look at with a keen data eye as well as the humane eye. That is, as far as I’m concerned, the glorious combination that you have brought that helped to challenge people about the nature of bilingual education. “Tough decisions,” said one of the testimonials. I myself have a family experience where a seven year DLI, Dual Language Immersion program in a school system was stopped after having success. So I have an emotional punch on this. So I’m gonna go for the emotion. The, “What?” Plus the research, plus some of the experience. Aren’t those reactions still happening? “What? Why?” How do you talk about transformation? What do you tell people about transformation?

0:09:04.3 Wayne Thomas: From a data point of view, you can start with the fact that in states like California, between 1998 and 2018, when they got rid of transitional bilingual Ed, their test scores went right to the bottom of the national…

0:09:17.1 Virginia Collier: 50th state…

0:09:17.2 Wayne Thomas: 50th…

0:09:17.3 Virginia Collier: In the country in achievement.

0:09:17.5 Norah Jones: Wow. Wow.

0:09:21.4 Wayne Thomas: Yeah. If you look at the national assessment of educational progress, their scores went steadily to the bottom over that 18 year or 20 year period.

0:09:22.1 Virginia Collier: 20.

0:09:22.3 Wayne Thomas: And so you can say with considerable confidence based on us, our larger state, that that did not work well at all in California. And they finally realized that and said, “Okay, we need to try something different.” After all, the definition of insanity, as has been said, is doing the same thing over and over again when you… And expecting different results. You weren’t getting different results at all in California, and the other states has been true too. So it doesn’t work. The alternatives don’t work.

0:09:57.7 Virginia Collier: The 20 years without bilingual schooling was mainly focused on the English learners. They still got to have foreign language teaching, and they still had the programs that had native English speakers in them. And some of the parents said, “What, you’re gonna take this away from my kids? I don’t think so.” Demanded that the state give away to get around the referendum, the voter referendum that said, “No bilingual education in the state of California.” And so that was mainly a referendum that was enforced for English learners who were not yet proficient in English, but not for native English speakers. Then finally after the 20 years, the proposition was in 2017 passed bilingual schooling. School districts could do whatever they wanted to do. And now the…

0:10:45.4 Wayne Thomas: What they thought best.

0:10:46.5 Virginia Collier: Yeah. And the superintendent of the state is now requiring that they expand dual language dramatically because they can see already their scores have gone back up to… They’re not yet at the middle point in the United States, but they’ve increased significantly as a result of so many English learners now getting access to schooling through their home language and English and doing much better in school and graduating.


0:11:12.7 Wayne Thomas: After all, in California, and that’s not the only state of course, but it’s a great example because 1/4 of their population, student… The school age population, about 1/4 is English learners. And when you don’t meet the needs of 1/4 of your school age population, you won’t require a specialist in evaluation and research to tell you that that’s going to really lower your test scores state wide. And it did. When they stopped doing completely ineffective things with English learners, 1/4 of their population started doing things that were much more effective, their test scores state wide came back up compared to the other 50 states. This is not a surprise, and it’s not rocket science either. When you do effective things, test scores go up, and achievement goes up, and students mastery of the curriculum goes up, and policies make… Can make, especially at the state wide level, a huge difference in the school experience that real-life breathing children have. And we, of course, have the long term perspective. We watched all this with hands overheads for 20 years because we had started to work on these issues in 1985. And so we were well into this by the time California did it Massachusetts did it.

0:12:21.6 Virginia Collier: Massachusetts…

0:12:22.1 Wayne Thomas: They’ve since repented as well. And Arizona, our fine friends in Arizona have not yet repented. They still don’t get it.

0:12:27.6 Virginia Collier: They still are an English-only state. But…

0:12:29.1 Wayne Thomas: Yeah.

0:12:30.9 Virginia Collier: It’s dramatically changing in the US now because a lot of parents are saying, I want my child to be schooled in two languages and they’re demanding it. And so that’s really changing the whole politics of the… The English Only Movement is getting less and less vocal because bilingual schooling is quite popular with parents now.

0:12:55.4 Wayne Thomas: Well, one of the things that’s changed, I think this was the original tenor of your question, one of the things that’s happened is that parents now in the year 2022, have much greater understanding of the advantages of proficient bilingualism. You notice I didn’t say just bilingualism. I took those French courses and those Latin courses and those German courses like you did. But I am afraid I’m not proficient in any of those. Not at all. Especially not having used them for these many decades. But proficient bilinguals do, and there’s clear research on this, and there has been for at least a quarter of a century, do get cognitive advantages for their proficient bilinguals that gives them school oriented advantages, things they can do better, faster, more efficiently, be more productive in acquiring a 21st century education. Those are all things that parents now understand that they didn’t understand 20 years ago. We see huge differences.

0:13:51.5 Wayne Thomas: If you walk down the Main Street and stop a person on the street and say, “Do you know what the advantages of bilingualism are?” A lot of them will know. And that was totally not the case 20 years ago. So somehow this understanding has been accomplished across the board, nationwide to a surprisingly higher degree. People understand now, parents understand and they want their children. And I’m not talking just about native English speaking parents, I’m talking about the parents of English learners as well. They now realize that acquiring the curriculum through two languages rather than just one, is cognitively advantageous, very strongly so. And so that’s why there’s a lot more interest I think in this.

0:14:33.5 Norah Jones: So you can see the experience in life, but you also can see it in the data. In other words, I look at some of the headers of your excellent brief that you share on your website, the role of bilingualism in improving literacy achievement, which says so much right there. One of the headers is the beauty of dual language schools for all, that appeals to my emotional status here.

0:15:01.3 Wayne Thomas: That word, that phrase actually comes from my background in physics and astronomy because those folks talk about beautiful theories, theories that have elegance, theories that are parsimonious, theories that are powerful at explaining the things they’re looking at. That’s right from that kind of background. Most educators don’t realize that, but it’s okay.

0:15:20.2 Virginia Collier: And has emotion behind it too.

0:15:22.1 Wayne Thomas: Yes, it does.

0:15:22.4 Virginia Collier: That’s what I like about it.

0:15:23.5 Wayne Thomas: Yes, it does.

0:15:24.6 Norah Jones: Yeah. That’s what makes the two of you amazing, is that you combine understanding of the word beauty has taps on both of those. Now, a lot of folks still, I believe, press against. I think some of the listeners may have… Some of them of course are like, “Yay, we’re listening to Thomas and Collier. Yay.” But there are others that are like really, English learners, as you have in one of the headers, belong in mainstream. Tell us more about what your data, what’s your understanding of the experience of young people, the two of you together say about the power of this? It doesn’t undermine anything. It helps. I’m sorry, I have to run right to the end of the conclusion because it’s just so important.

0:16:07.7 Wayne Thomas: Maybe you should explain why bilinguals instruction is so powerful. Why being educated through two languages rather than just one is more powerful.

0:16:16.0 Virginia Collier: We use the term mainstream to emphasize a term that used to be used only by the English Only Movement. And we say dual language is the mainstream. It’s not a separate segregated program only for English learners. In the past, during the 1970s, ’80’s and ’90’s, most of the programs that were designed for students, immigrant students coming to the US who didn’t yet know english were separate programs, segregated programs just for them, where they’d go to their special class…

0:16:48.2 Wayne Thomas: And their programs were only in English.

0:16:50.1 Virginia Collier: Yeah. And well, no, some were bilingual.

0:16:52.4 Wayne Thomas: Okay. We’re talking about bilingual.

0:16:53.7 Virginia Collier: But only for the english learners. And so then when dual language began to develop, and it began out of the English Only Movement. And one of the reasons that you could call it bilingual schooling, you can call it dual language aversion, all those terms are the same program, it’s not any different. But the term dual language kind of became popular because we weren’t using the term bilingual. And that was what the English Only Movement was saying was bad for you to be bilingual.

0:17:22.2 Wayne Thomas: The B word.

0:17:23.6 Virginia Collier: The B word. So they really helped us think about, well, what is wrong with the model of bilingual schooling that we have had in the past? And to think about changing that. We’ve ended up with a very different type of program which is the mainstream, dual language is the mainstream. It’s for everybody. It just… It happens to be taught through two languages, english and whatever the part…

0:17:49.4 Wayne Thomas: When you say it’s the mainstream, it’s the mainstream curriculum?

0:17:52.0 Virginia Collier: Yep.

0:17:52.2 Wayne Thomas: It’s taught at the level of cognitive demand of the mainstream.

0:17:55.6 Virginia Collier: Yep.

0:17:56.1 Wayne Thomas: And it is taught through two languages that makes it much more cognitively stimulating. Number one factor that we found overarching to be important. And the second factor is it makes it much more interesting instruction. It will come as no surprise to many of your listeners. The typical classroom instruction for both native english speakers and english learners is boring. Having the stimulation both cognitively and emotionally and otherwise, of interacting with other kids in two languages is very effective, largely because it makes school much more fun, much more engaging, much more interesting. This even shows up in major research studies like the Ramirez study from… And others that one of their major conclusions was the typical instruction here was incredibly boring. And we need to change that.

0:18:43.1 Virginia Collier: In the case of, for example, found in our Houston data, which is a very large city and…

0:18:48.7 Wayne Thomas: 210,000 students as I remember.

0:18:50.9 Virginia Collier: Yeah. So we had a lot of data to play around with there. We found that African American students in the inner city who were in the 90-10 dual language, it was equivalent of dual language immersion. They called it two-way bilingual schooling. African American students were scoring above grade level by fifth grade in Spanish, way above grade level, higher than the Spanish speakers. And scoring way above grade level in English as well on difficult tests. The Stanford, the Apprenda in Spanish and the native Spanish speakers did the same, high level in classes where the two groups were together. We found that where the Spanish speakers were isolated and only in a school where Spanish speakers were attending took another couple of years to get to grade level in English. But they got there by seventh grade. But all of these groups were scoring way above grade level by fifth grade. Then we analyzed the data for the state of North Carolina, which is…

0:19:50.6 Wayne Thomas: An entire state, 1.1 million students for each of five years.

0:19:54.9 Virginia Collier: Yeah, that was a lot of data. [chuckle]

0:19:55.9 Wayne Thomas: Not many people… Although some people might say, “Oh, well, that’s just one study done in one place at one time.” It’s hard to ignore an entire state’s worth of time.

0:20:03.3 Virginia Collier: Five years.

0:20:04.2 Wayne Thomas: It’s certainly far and away the largest study we’ve ever done.

0:20:06.7 Virginia Collier: In North Carolina they have started with the governor as an initiative. The governor said, “We want to do this for all our students.” And then they gave a challenge. The state board agreed to the challenge that they would try to get dual language in every single school district in the state. They have done that. They have at least one…

0:20:26.2 Wayne Thomas: About 10 years later.

0:20:27.0 Virginia Collier: Yeah.

0:20:27.3 Wayne Thomas: Yeah, okay.

0:20:27.8 Virginia Collier: They have at least one dual language school in every single school district in North Carolina, and there’s 10 languages Cherokee is one of them and for their Western Cherokee band of Indian group… Indigenous group. Then they said, “Okay, we need Wayne and Ginger to come and analyze our data.”

0:20:44.7 Wayne Thomas: They actually did say that. She’s not exaggerating.

0:20:48.7 Virginia Collier: After they had had the program in place for quite a while in a number of school districts. And there were a lot of African-American students in the program. So we said, “Oh, we can analyze just looking at that group to see how they’re doing in their achievement.” And lo and behold, it was like the Houston data, scoring above grade level by fifth grade in two grades above their peers not in dual language.

0:21:13.2 Wayne Thomas: Now, I remember quite well what my first thought was. Now, wait a minute, we saw that in Houston, but what we have here is that a program that many people think of as primarily for english learners is knocking it out of the park when it comes to at risk native english speakers. Ooh. Now, remember, I’m an educator, but I was surprised by that. I have a lot of experience in analyzing data from remedial special ed programs, special needs programs, Title I programs. And so, I was expecting to find the same things here. And these native english speaking students who were in an average category, their gains were smidgen smaller than the huge gains associated with English learners. It was just as efficacious basically for at-risk native english speakers. The it being dual language instruction. It was way more than we expected. And we are professional educators with decades of experience. So we were very pleasantly surprised.

0:22:09.6 Virginia Collier: And the state school board was tweeting each other, jumping up and down, “We finally found something that works.”


0:22:16.9 Wayne Thomas: They’ve been working on trying to raise the test scores of its historically low scoring groups of African-American students for 30, 40 years. Title I. All kinds of programs like that and with little or no long term success. All they were able to accomplish is short term gains that lasted for a year or two. And this is the only evidence, by the way, in favor of remedial, especially, english only programs, is that they can produce little bumps of achievement over a period of a year or two. But if you stretch them…

0:22:45.7 Virginia Collier: And in first grade and second grade.


0:22:47.1 Wayne Thomas: If you stretch it out over or look it over a five or six year period, all of those gains go away. So this is the, I’ll say again, the only thing that really works effectively for english learners, and it also works for at risk native english speakers. And we just love that because that’s really important, we feel.

0:23:03.2 Virginia Collier: After we got that finding, we decided to do interviews. So we interviewed some teachers and principals and a few African-American students too, saying, “Okay, what’s going on?” First the African-American students said, “Hey, ma’am, we’re in the honors program. We’re… ” They’re very proud. The principal said, “It’s the kind of teaching that bilingual teachers do. They do a lot of extra clues to meaning. And… ” So there’s some repetition, but it’s not boring repetition. It’s like kids say, “I get what the teacher wants, and they do it.” And then there’s a lot of exciting stuff that goes on in a bilingual classroom because you’re working through… You’re developing cross-cultural contexts. Say it’s mathematics that you’re working on and you’re looking at it a Latin American or if it’s a Spanish English program, Latin American Spain perspective as well as US perspective, and is it different. It stretches your mind to get each subject area through two languages.

0:24:03.2 Wayne Thomas: So you’re not only are in engaging them with teaching strategies that utilize non-language approaches that you were talking about some of the extra…

0:24:13.6 Virginia Collier: Innovative teaching.

0:24:14.6 Wayne Thomas: Innovative ways of conveying meaning that don’t necessarily rely on the language from instruction initially. And you’re also making… You’re tapping into their first language. Because after all, they brought a first language to school. Even if it was the one that they were born in and lived through five or six years before they showed up at school, they still have that first language. And the important thing is that their cognitive development has already occurred in that first language. And when you jerk them away from that first language into all english instruction in particular, that has very unfortunate effects. So when you continue their cognitive development in first language, and you use their first language to increase their level of understanding of the curriculum material, you get a twofer. You get a double set of positive impacts on their achievement, and they really do prosper. It’s almost… I gotta tell you, I really looked hard at this. I thought, “This is too good to be true.”


0:25:11.8 Wayne Thomas: “How long have I been doing Title I evaluations? 30 years. And we have never found anything like this.” And I would just, “Mmh, I dunno.” So I went back and it took a year or so to get it all sorted out, at least to my satisfaction. She had pounced on it immediately, of course. But I said, “I wanna be sure of this before we start saying this to people.” Well, we’re sure.

0:25:31.9 Virginia Collier: We have one particular publication that, I think, has been downloaded more than any other one.

0:25:37.2 Wayne Thomas: Yeah.

0:25:38.4 Virginia Collier: We titled it, the astounding effectiveness of dual language education. Of course, researchers would say, “You can’t say that.”

0:25:44.8 Wayne Thomas: You can’t use the word astounding.

0:25:46.4 Virginia Collier: Astounding. I finally convinced Wayne to say that because it was true.

0:25:50.5 Wayne Thomas: One of the things that people like me do, is not just look for statistical significance, okay? Statistical significance, dual language is significantly better than the alternatives, especially. All that means is that the difference is larger than zero when you’re sure of that, okay. It doesn’t say how large the difference is, and so we do a lot of computation of things called effect sizes and other means of finding out how large is this difference? Is it a small difference? Is it a small advantage that accrues to dual language? Is it a moderate size advantage? Is it a large advantage? How large is it? And the answer is, it’s large to very large.

0:26:25.4 Virginia Collier: It’s huge.

0:26:26.3 Wayne Thomas: And that’s why I finally was persuaded the word astounding might actually apply because the effect size is we’ve computed here for all of these studies taken into aggregate a larger than any I have seen as a professional program evaluator for four decades. That’s worth people knowing about. These not only are positive effects, they’re large to very large positive effects when this program is done properly by the schools.

0:26:53.1 Norah Jones: Brilliant, now the North Carolina State folks jumping up and down in excitement. Two things like me so strongly is, the effective part especially for students for whom this is hope that they have not necessarily been invited into. And the second is the data analysis. I am talking to two people that have these two perspectives that bring it together and melded perfectly, what is keeping states that are interested in effective performance by their students and their competitiveness, if you will, an educational, is it growing? Am I underestimating the impact of this information on state-level decision-making?

0:27:32.3 Virginia Collier: Well, there are a lot of states that are really leaping into it, almost a bandwagon now. Washington State, the superintendent there has said, “We will have dual language in all school districts.” Oregon is beginning some initiatives too. Georgia…

0:27:47.6 Wayne Thomas: Georgia is very interested.

0:27:49.0 Virginia Collier: Georgia is jealous of North Carolina. [laughter] They are trying to step in.

0:27:54.0 Wayne Thomas: Delaware and Utah have had…

0:27:56.7 Virginia Collier: Delaware. Utah’s had an initiative for quite some time now.

0:28:00.6 Wayne Thomas: Although many of their programs are primarily for native English speakers.

0:28:02.7 Virginia Collier: For native English speakers, but, they do have two-way programs for some of them, some of the context. Again, it depends on the demographics. As it spreads, Texas, New Mexico, so it’s spreading, it’s spreading. Illinois is another one. But what the biggest challenges now is getting the bilingual teachers. Now with the pandemic, a lot of school districts have lost maybe 20% of their teaching staff and they’re having… They’re scrambling to get… Taking care of the kids. So it’s a challenging time. There’s a huge bilingual teacher shortage and yet there are a lot of teacher ED initiatives that are going on state by state and being supported by the state government.

0:28:43.0 Wayne Thomas: So we’re educators, when we use the word bilingual teacher, we know what that means. But some of our audience may not realize, what is a… What are the qualifications of a bilingual teacher?

0:28:52.7 Virginia Collier: The challenge is you gotta be dual-certified. You really have to be able to teach not only the language, but the subject that you’re teaching. Say you’re teaching at high school level, and the course is going to be taught in a partner language. Let’s choose a different one from Spanish, just for fun, Arabic. Okay?

0:29:14.2 Wayne Thomas: But surprisingly large number of students in this country come from Arabic home background. You’d be perhaps surprised as I was to look up the statistics on that.

0:29:24.1 Virginia Collier: And so, you have to get in a teacher who has been schooled in Arabic and who also is certified to teach chemistry. If you’re gonna offer chemistry in Arabic.

0:29:36.1 Wayne Thomas: So if I’m gonna go back and be a high school math and physics teacher again, I would really have to work on my language proficiency, which was so sadly neglected when I was younger. I would not… Ironically would not be qualified as a bilingual secondary teacher now. I could teach in English, but not in English and Spanish or English and Arabic or whatever it might be.

0:29:58.4 Virginia Collier: I had this dramatically impressed upon me when we were… We had expanded our bilingual teaching courses, and one of the local district next to George Mason University was developing their bilingual program. So they had course for first grade teachers. We offered that and the languages were Japanese, Spanish, and French. And so I took the course because I wanted to… I figured, “Okay, I need to check and see how am I gonna teach first grade curriculum in Spanish?”

0:30:38.1 Wayne Thomas: You have a master’s degree in Spanish.

0:30:39.5 Virginia Collier: I have a master’s in Spanish.

0:30:40.6 Wayne Thomas: Okay.

0:30:41.0 Virginia Collier: I couldn’t even do the first week of the curriculum because they were doing things that I had never experienced in Spanish. I had not done the kinds of math tasks that the first graders are required to do in Spanish. And so I was just overwhelmed with, “Wow, you really do have to have had schooling in the subjects that you’re going to teach in that language in order for you to be a truly successful bilingual teacher.”

0:31:14.6 Wayne Thomas: So if there are folks in your listening audience who have a degree in some language and also substantial course work, maybe even a minor in subject areas like math or social studies or history, I’m sure there are lots of school systems out there that would like to talk to you about being a bilingual teacher. Now, having said that, there are some ways of working with… ‘Cause the big problem here is the availability of bilingual teachers. No one has ever, in 35 years, told us we have too many bilingual teachers. No one has ever said that.

0:31:49.1 Virginia Collier: In the US.

0:31:50.2 Wayne Thomas: In the US and other countries as well. But my point is, there’s another strategy you could take two people. One, that’s me, who could teach in English and the other one, her, who could teach in Spanish. You give us… I’m speaking here as a former school administrator, you should give us two classes, okay? I teach the English… Teach in English at the same time she’s teaching in Spanish. And then we switch classes.

0:32:18.5 Virginia Collier: The kids switch.

0:32:18.6 Wayne Thomas: You have two classes, two teachers. The student teacher ratio is the same, and you only have to have half of the bilingual… Of the fully proficient bilingual teachers that you otherwise would be required to have. Now, as a former administrator, I like that. In a state like North Carolina where bilingual teachers are rare as hens teeth, at least in some languages, you’ve gotta do things like that. And so if… Sometimes school districts in particular throw up their hands and say, “We just can’t get the bilingual teachers, we’re not going to do this.” Okay. But there are things you can do. And that’s a very one very powerful strategy to use team teaching to let each teacher teach in his or her best language, and thus teach at a higher cognitive level, thus improving the quality of structure, especially in the middle and high school years. So there are things you can do, but you have to work at it. It’s not automatic.

0:33:09.9 Norah Jones: That is such an important invitation that I’m actually going to tap on a little bit longer, because part of what the importance of this podcast in general is language is an amazing unique human talent. And then the second part is, so what are we going to do to make sure that language and language access help to contribute to a more hopeful world? And your stories of the student experience bring in that essence of hope and joy and opportunity and justice ultimately. How do we go about it? So let’s say that indeed, we have both listeners or those that I’ve encouraged to bring to listen to this, that are administrators that have been resistant potentially not because of philosophy, but just because of sheer feeling of practicality. What kinds of recommendations do you have that they can learn more and understand better and be able to take action?

0:34:19.0 Wayne Thomas: In North Carolina, for example, as I said, fully proficient bilingual teachers are uncommon. And so what they have done is to look elsewhere for their teachers. Sometimes school districts, they wait for the teachers to come to them, especially in the human resources department. They don’t go looking for teachers. You have to get off your chair and go to places like Puerto Rico. The people in North Carolina go to Spain, to Venezuela, to Mexico…

0:34:45.4 Virginia Collier: Colombia.

0:34:46.9 Wayne Thomas: Columbia, and they try to work with the US State Department and there are existing programs for doing this to bring international teachers here who can stay for three to five years and thus provide, right now the programs are the future expertise that you need. Another problem that administrators sometimes think is insurmountable is you don’t need all the teachers for grade K through 6 at one time. You just need enough to start the program in grade K in kindergarten, and then you have a year to acquire the teachers you need for grade one. You introduce a program like this one year at a time. It takes 12 years to go… Or 13 years to go K through 12 if you want to do that.

0:35:28.4 Wayne Thomas: It’s a long term reform strategy. It’s not an instantaneous fix it all that we can do in six months. It’s a long term, we’re going to go this way and we’re going to make things better strategy. So that’s the thing… Two things that states like North Carolina have done. And they’ve also wanted to look for ways to support in their own state universities. If you go… We refer to the great state of North Carolina, you can go to North Carolina and to their state universities or to their private universities as well and say, “Folks, you’re part of our great state. We need your help and we don’t need the help you given us necessarily in the past, we need you to come down off your academic perch and actually respond to the needs that we have right here on the ground in our state capital and elsewhere.”

0:36:20.4 Wayne Thomas: This conversation goes on or should be going on in every state right now, and there should be a lot of getting together and from between the higher… And we’re speakers with 25 years of higher ed experience. Okay? We’re not unfamiliar with how universities operate at all. So this… We need to get the universities and the states together in much more than just words and good thinking and nice fond thoughts of each other, but actually working hand and glove to facilitate what it takes to get more teachers out there who are qualified in subject areas and also qualified to teach in a given language like Spanish or Arabic or whatever.

0:37:25.3 Wayne Thomas: There’s more than just lip service to this particular goal. It has to actually happen. And it happens in North Carolina. It has happened because the governor started it. He said, We… I got my office and the legislature and the State Department of Education, they call it the Department of Public Instruction, we’re gonna do this and we’re gonna do this because they’re compelling, the good reasons to do this and we’re gonna do it and we’re gonna do it right. That has worked very well for them. I’m not saying the top down strategy is the only way to do it, but when it starts with the top and you have the support from the top, from the beginning, that goes a long ways towards helping to address real world problems like how in the world are we gonna get enough qualified bilingual teachers because everyone has that problem, but they have solved it at least partially in North Carolina. Now, if they could do it in North Carolina, they’re fine folks there, but they’re not overrun with bilingual teachers at all. If they can do it, basically, I would think almost anybody could do it. Utah is doing it. Delaware is doing it. These states are not known for having multitudes of proficient bilingual teaching.

0:37:54.4 Virginia Collier: But what they are doing at the state level is providing a lot of professional development for the teachers this ongoing all the time…

0:38:51.8 Wayne Thomas: They’re giving teachers incentives to get recertified in certain areas.

0:39:03.8 Virginia Collier: And that’s state funded. Having the state support is quite a huge thing. Very important.

0:39:06.6 Wayne Thomas: Right.

0:39:06.7 Virginia Collier: I was gonna mention two other ways that districts get bilingual teachers. One is paraeducators that they might have, for example, immigrant parents who were teachers in their home country. They’ve come here and they don’t have the certification to be able to be get classified as a regular classroom teacher. And so they come as assistants in the classroom and they… But they don’t get paid full pay as a full teacher. And often they’re used a great deal in the bilingual classroom, and they’re wonderful resource for cross-cultural things and really deep, knowledge of the language that’s the partner language. Universities who get grants to support those paraeducators to get the coursework that they need to then become fully certified and become regular teachers in the school district.

0:39:11.7 Virginia Collier: And they’re all the time recruiting those folks who were immigrants, but they were teachers before in their home country, and they want to be teachers here too. So that’s one way. And another way is to grow your own bilingual teachers, and that’s a long term strategy. But if you keep the program going, don’t just stop it at the end of the elementary school years, but do it all the way through middle and high school, you’re gonna graduate very deeply proficient bilinguals who can become bilingual teachers. And…

0:39:35.6 Wayne Thomas: After all, it only takes five years from grade 12 to first year of teaching. Okay? They have to go off and get a bachelor’s degree in something, some subject area, and when they come back, they’re ready to go.

0:39:47.2 Virginia Collier: And so, for example, Nebraska has a very strong K-12 dual language program for immigrant students who came mainly from Mexico and Central America, whose parents had had a pretty rough life and they came to be meat packers in Omaha. The families had never had any formal schooling at all, the children frequently come with very limited experience in school, and they come with all different ages and the dual language program just takes them all. Whatever age they are, they come in and they work and work with the kids until they can graduate. They call the high school program, College Preparatory Program, and they really, really work to graduate almost 100% of their students.

0:40:34.9 Virginia Collier: And then these students, while they’re in high school, are taking courses to be bilingual teachers. Sometimes they’re mentoring in the elementary school and getting experience with teaching to see if they want to be teachers. The University of Nebraska has a relationship with them. The kids will get automatic scholarships if they’ve got that biliteracy seal on their diploma that they are fully bilingual. Then they get scholarships and they go through their teacher preparation, and come back to be teachers in the school district. And they have a number of teachers now that they’ve hired who are their own graduates. That’s just so exciting. It’s a win-win for everybody. And it’s a two-way program, so they’re native English speakers in the classes too.

0:41:18.9 Wayne Thomas: So a school district might start with the international teachers, but in the short to midterm, they could shift over to other sources of teachers. The paraprofessional approach to intervention, the former graduates, high school graduates who are interested and in the long term, the grow your own philosophy, if you wanna call it that, is one that you can rely on and say 8 to 10 years out, you begin to have your own population of fully proficient bilingual teachers in each state. California, for example, has recently… I think the governor’s office estimated it would take at least 10 years to produce in California the number of bilingual teachers that they thought they might need even at a minimum level. There are things you can do, but if you just sit back and wait for them to come to you, you’re going to be very disappointed. You have to go get them, and you have to be proactive and affirmative in your strategies to find the bilingual teachers, the proficient bilingual teachers that are out there, and to help provide incentives for more to appear in the next three to five years or something.

0:42:18.1 Virginia Collier: I was gonna just bring in one more social justice issue. Relationship between the students in these classes. That dual language is something that brings kids together across social class, and ethnic groups and whatever barriers are present in the broader society, and helps these kids get along together. And that’s something we need for the preparation for the workplace. The workplace is very diverse and it really, really helps for the kids to get experience with problem solving together in two languages before they move into graduating and moving into the workplace. So it helps prepare kids for life.

0:42:58.0 Norah Jones: Thank you for bringing that part up because one of the aspects that you’ve alluded to are special needs students too. So many times kids with diversity of learning experiences and skill sets are left out of the language equation or actively excluded. Can you address what you have discovered from the point of view of the experiences and the data, what that implies for these young people?

0:43:25.7 Virginia Collier: We have found definitely in our North Carolina data, since we had such huge data sets to work on that the special needs kids, for example, those with learning disabilities and autistic children and other categories, maybe emotional concerns, that those kids significantly did better in dual language classes than their peers with the same special need who were not in dual language.

0:43:53.3 Wayne Thomas: That’s one other thing,the reasons why these are huge advantages from a policy making point of view of analyzing massive data sets is we actually had hundreds of students in North Carolina who were both special needs and in dual language programs. Even at a point when dual language programs were still being developed, even at that time, when you start with over a million students, you’re going to have hundreds in this category and you can see how they’re actually doing in a real life dual language program. And the answer is, on average, they’re doing better, much better than they would’ve been doing in their regular special needs structure. Now that’s a real, at least for me, an eyebrow raiser and a hmm possibly, and you oughta look, dual language instruction may be the most appropriate instructional placement for these children.

0:44:38.8 Norah Jones: It’s astonishing.

0:44:40.4 Wayne Thomas: Astounding even.


0:44:42.1 Norah Jones: Astounding. I like that word very, very much. Now, I will be inviting my listeners to go again to your website, thomasandcollier.com, to see the resources you have available, the books that you’ve published, which by the way, will have an opportunity on my website to be able to get it. A special code for being a listener from the dual language education, New Mexico Publishers Fuente Press. Shout out of appreciation to your publisher for that. What other resources, including yourselves might you point listeners to when they check out your website and check out what you have for them to think about?

0:45:25.0 Virginia Collier: All the journal articles that we’ve written and everything that’s not in book form is available on the website. So you just simply go to a particular article that you wanna look at and the PDF is there to download it free of charge. So it’s only the books that are available from the publisher. Another distributor is Velazquez Press, they also develop videos to go with each of the books too. The five books we’ve written on dual language, one of them is focused on English learners, that was the first book. And then there’s a third book has administrators of dual language programs. Then the fifth book is on secondary dual language, which is where many school districts are starting to go now to continue their programs all the way through. This is such a different type of program than just foreign language teaching, ’cause it’s you’re teaching the two languages through the school curriculum.

0:46:19.1 Wayne Thomas: Goal is not just proficiency in a language. The real goal here is mastery of the curriculum through English and the other language, whatever it might be. So it’s slightly different from the typical foreign language teaching that many of your audience may be more familiar with.

0:46:34.9 Virginia Collier: That’s right.

0:46:35.1 Wayne Thomas: But it does rely critically on the skills that those foreign language teachers have and can further develop. So we have Velasquez Press that we have… We’ve… Our intent when recording these videos, which they distribute, is if people acquired one of our books, we wanted to be able to let them watch the video and let us walk them through each of the chapters and what we really intended and what we were really saying and kind of further amplify the points made in print. So that was the intent there.

0:47:01.0 Virginia Collier: We’re also available, we’re not traveling anymore since the pandemic started we’ve been staying home and doing everything through Zoom. But school districts can hire us to do like a either a keynote or a speaking session. And we do book chats sometimes when people… A bunch of people will buy a book and study it. And then we talk with them when they have questions about the book.

0:47:23.8 Wayne Thomas: Well, we are interested in helping people develop dual language education as we want to see eventually, hopefully before we check out, dual language being their primary means of American education. Right now it’s in about what, 3,500 programs, but there are 16,000 approximately US school districts. So we have a ways to go. [chuckle] And so we want to see this continue to grow, to continue to develop, to continue to be what it can be for American education because the effect sizes really are very large, very astounding, and very positive. And it’s an innovation that’s very much worth people getting behind once they find out about it enough to feel really confident and understanding of it. However you would choose that we’ve kinda dedicated the rest of our careers, including the last 35 years, to trying to do everything possible to promote effective dual language instruction, anywhere people will consider that possibility. And so if there’s some way we could do that, we’d be interested in knowing about it more than we’ve already figured out.

0:48:25.6 Virginia Collier: We live in such a multilingual world.

0:48:28.2 Wayne Thomas: Oh, yes.

0:48:29.1 Virginia Collier: And the countries that have remained more monolingual oriented, we encourage those countries to shift their perspective into recognizing that it’s to celebrate, life is to celebrate languages, multiple languages.

0:48:47.3 Wayne Thomas: When we do interactions with other countries, as you did recently, there were… They were familiar with the concept of mother tongue instruction, but the idea of dual language instruction as we defined it, is typically not nearly as familiar to them. So if you have international listeners, we would especially encourage them to inform themselves about what dual language instruction really is. It’s more than just mother tongue instruction.

0:49:11.0 Norah Jones: This is extremely helpful. Thank you for that. That was an outreach to additional research on behalf of global community, which I really appreciate. And is there anything else before we sign off of this rich conversation today that you want to be sure that you said to my listeners before you leave today?

0:49:34.4 Wayne Thomas: It’s not easy to develop effective dual language instructions, but it’s very much worth the effort in both a short term and the long term.

0:49:42.5 Virginia Collier: We keep on cheering everybody on saying, “You can do it. You can do it folks,” and it’s worth it. It really is worth it. It’s a lot, it’s a challenge and it’s really easy to get the teachers, but once you get it going, it’s just so amazing. Dual language graduates, there’s lots and lots of them now who are getting the Biliteracy Seal. There are 49 states that have the Biliteracy seal now. It’s been…

0:50:08.7 Wayne Thomas: I think that’s true.

0:50:09.2 Virginia Collier: That’s the main thing to us. ‘Cause it started in California in 2011 as a movement to develop Biliteracy Seal, an extra thing on your diploma. And now 49 states are encouraging high school graduates to get that Bilingual Seal. To get the seal, you have to take very difficult tests in the partner language and in English, and show that you are proficiently bilingual. With that seal, the graduates are doing amazing things. They’re getting higher scholarships, they’re getting into more prestigious universities. They’re getting more money in their jobs as adults. It’s just astonishing how that’s changing life for a lot of kids in… We are being at… Well, school districts that have had a dual language program for a while at the high school level all the way through K through 12, pre-K through 12, they are graduating for English learners who have been through that program, before the dual language program they had graduated maybe 40% or 45% of their English learners. And now with the dual language programs in place, they’re graduating 95% to close to a 100% of their English learners. And that’s so huge. That’s just enormous. It means that these kids will have a much better life. They’ll make more money as adults there. There’s just so many things that it opens up for them in their lives. So this changes everything for all kids. It’s really a very astonishing…

0:51:41.8 Wayne Thomas: Both native English speakers and English learner.

0:51:44.4 Virginia Collier: Yeah Right?

0:51:46.4 Wayne Thomas: Yes.

0:51:46.5 Virginia Collier: Yeah. For everybody.

0:51:46.4 Wayne Thomas: Everybody does better in dual language. That’s the bottom line. [laughter] That they do. And significantly so too.

0:51:52.2 Norah Jones: Significantly. And you have the data to prove it, Doug Gonet.

0:51:55.0 Wayne Thomas: And we encourage people, you’re listing audience to look into these things very seriously. This is a serious way of making American education much better over the next say 10 to 15 years. This could really work for us as a country. We can make education substantially better because of the large effect size associated with these programs when they are well implemented for everyone, for English learners and native English speakers. So we appreciate the opportunity to interact with you folks today. Thank you so much for that.

0:52:25.3 Norah Jones: Thank you. Thanks for leaving an image of joy and that excitement that you expressed. I sometimes feel like if we were to all sit on the floor, be able to interact linguistically and culturally, this will be a fine place indeed. Thank you for bringing that hope for all these decades and thank you for sharing that today with my listeners.

0:52:47.9 Wayne Thomas: My great pleasure.

0:52:48.9 Virginia Collier: Thanks. We’re… We enjoyed the conversation immensely.

0:52:52.1 Norah Jones: I hope you enjoyed this podcast and, even more, I hope that you are ready to take some action in your life on behalf of what you have heard about the nature of language and what it does for human beings from the earliest ages on. Please go to my website, fluency.consulting for more information and to find that code for your discount on Thomas and Collier publications. And check out their website, too, thomasandcollier.com. Thank you again for listening to this podcast, and thank you for taking action to bring the power of language into the world.

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