Biden-Harris Administration Introduces “Being Bilingual is a Superpower” Initiative to Encourage Multilingual Education for a Diverse Workforce

The U.S. Department of Education (Department) has launched “Being Bilingual is a Superpower,” an initiative under its Raise the Bar: Create Pathways for Global Engagement. This initiative aims to promote multilingual education, enhance language programs, and strengthen the multilingual educator workforce across the country.

The initiative, known as “Being Bilingual is a Superpower,” seeks to underscore the educational and economic importance of bilingualism and biliteracy. It aims to provide students with the necessary skills for success, global competitiveness, and engagement. Under the Department’s Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA), this initiative will promote research-based bilingual educational opportunities and language instruction in early learning education settings and beyond.

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona emphasized the advantages of multilingualism, stating, “Knowing more than one language, acquiring a new language through school, or learning new languages later in life can provide tangible academic, cognitive, economic, and sociocultural advantages.” He highlighted the need to provide all students with opportunities to become multilingual in order to maximize the nation’s potential to compete and lead in the global economy.

In line with this initiative, the Department will be hosting a national convening in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, November 16. The event will provide a platform for Secretary Cardona to share his vision and the Department’s efforts to support multilingualism. It will also feature a roundtable conversation with experts from around the country who have successfully implemented high-quality language programs for English Learners and all students.

To galvanize support for multilingual learning, the Department is partnering with Members of Congress and educational leaders. Together, they aim to prioritize multilingual education to meet the diverse needs of communities and ensure that students are prepared for 21st-century careers and global competitiveness.

Recent data indicates that only around 20 percent of the U.S. population speaks more than one language. To address the need for bilingual and multilingual education, OELA had previously announced an investment of nearly $120 million in eligible institutions of higher education and public or private entities. These investments aimed to support educators of English learner students. Additionally, the Secretary proposed the reorganization of Title III programming, which supports the success of English Learners, into the Office of English Language Acquisition.

In alignment with the multilingual agenda, the Department has awarded $33.2 million in grants through the Native Hawaiian Education (NHE) program. These grants will fund innovative educational programs that support Native Hawaiians and recognize the significance of the Native Hawaiian language and culture in their academic success and overall well-being.

The grant funds will address various critical needs identified by the Native Hawaiian Education Council, including Hawaiian language-medium instruction, culture-based education programs, mental health and social-emotional well-being initiatives, and renovation projects at schools serving predominantly Native Hawaiian students. The projects will also address the impact of COVID-19 on students and educators, aiming to accelerate student learning and meet challenging academic content standards. The grants will support long-term recovery efforts for students affected by the August 2023 wildfires in Lahaina.

Furthermore, the Department has awarded almost $2 million in grants under the Native American and Alaska Native Children in School Program (NAM). These grants are aimed at enhancing capacity and providing effective instruction and support to Native American students who are English learners. The competition prioritized the preservation and revitalization of Native American languages and promoted equity in student access to educational resources and opportunities. The Department intends to strengthen cross-agency coordination and community engagement to advance Native American languages while improving English-language proficiency. 

As part of its commitment to supporting English Learner students and their families, the Department has released a letter from Secretary Cardona. The letter provides resources, including Raise the Bar Metrics, data visualizations, an English Language Family Toolkit, and a Seal of Biliteracy Infographic. These resources aim to empower educators, leaders, and families to ensure meaningful participation of English Learners and Multilingual Learners in education programs. The toolkit has been translated into Chinese, Spanish, and Arabic. Additionally, OELA’s Family Toolkit app will be available in Arabic, English, Chinese, and Spanish on Android and Apple devices.

Below is a list of new grant awards categorized by grantee and project name.

Grantee   

Project Name   

Aha Punana Leo  

Nā Hua Kanu  

Consortium for Hawai’i Ecological Engineering Education  

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