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Why advocates of multilingual families are asking for changes with goal of 'trailer bill' for Act 20

Kelly Luedeke explains Act 20
Posted at 10:17 PM, Dec 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-23 09:34:16-05
  • Act 20 is a state law that sets standards and expectations for Wisconsin literacy.
  • Your children from K4 through Grade 3 are impacted by the rules in this law, but advocates for multilingual families would like to add waivers to help children newly learning English.
  • English retention is not the same thing as literacy, and educators want to make sure all students can benefit from statewide educational standards.
  • Links for more information — including a document to submit your questions about the implementation of different elements of the law — are included below.

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story, with links and edits)

Act 20 was passed in June, and it sets standards for literacy in Wisconsin, but some advocates for multilingual families are asking for a few changes that can go in an upcoming "trailer bill."

I met bilingual consultant Lori Menning at CESA 6 in Oshkosh, who reached out for help spreading awareness.

I first met Menning to learn more about what she and other advocates want for students new to this country.

“We are really looking to be able to support those students in ways that will allow them to show their understanding of literacy, and not just their understanding of the new English language that they're learning,” Menning said.

She introduced me to Kelly Luedeke, the district literacy and English language learner coordinator in Kaukauna.

“As ELL Coordinator, I had questions about the assessment piece, and I was having a conversation with Lori at a networking meeting. And she shared with me some of the advocacy that she's been doing.”

Luedeke says her district has about 160 English language learners with varying levels of English proficiency, and she says that's an asset.

“We have 14 languages spoken in our district, the top four being Spanish, Hmong, Swahili, and Kinyarwandan.”

But the main thing Menning and Luedeke are asking for is a waiver. As it is currently written, Act 20 requires an annual literacy skills assessment. and Luedeke says that since these screenings are performed in English, newcomers could get mislabeled as "at risk."

“We're not taking into consideration all of the literate skills that they come with in their home language. So, I'm just asking for time.”

She says many families don’t know about Act 20.

“Our newly arrived families are not thinking about state testing. They're thinking about, how– 'how does winter work?' Right? Like, 'what are snow pants?' 'How do I acclimate to my new community?'”

Luedieke is especially focused on supporting students who've been in the country for less than a year because she says diversity of experiences should be celebrated.

Links for more information on Act 20

  • Share your Act 20 questions or concerns at this link
  • View Act 20 here
  • Check out Frequently Asked Questions about Act 20 here