Walk the Walk
For more than 25 years, Coady has been a member of the National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE), the nation’s only professional organization dedicated to representing bilingual education professionals and bilingual and multilingual students. And while participation at the national level is beneficial, it is well known that needs vary from state to state.
Florida is home to the third highest population of English-language learners, the first ever dual-language, two-way immersion bilingual education program, launched in 1963 as the Coral Way Elementary School, and more than 100 bilingual education programs across the state, but the state chapter of NABE the Florida Association for Bilingual Education (FABE) was no longer functioning.
Further, Florida even with all of the bilingual education and outreach efforts occuring, had no way for teachers, scholars, families and students to connect with and support one another.
Coady saw the opportunity for a symbiotic relationship of sorts, connecting the state through information and association. Late in 2018, alongside Dr. Brenda Such, assistant director of course production at the University of Florida’s Center for Online Innovation and Production, Coady worked with a class of 28 graduate students to establish a repository of the bilingual education programs available across Florida’s school districts.
Currently, 13 Florida districts offer programs. According to the repository website, bilingualeducationfl.org, “Data from this project were obtained from school districts, individual schools, and the Florida Department of Education, EdStats. Student, school and district achievement data are from the 2017-18 and 2018-19 academic years.”
Connecting the Past
Florida has a long history in the area of bilingual education, one that influenced the nation ahead of its time. According to Coady, the name “Coral Way” is a household name among bilingual educators. Even so, there is little official documentation about the program and, over time, memories began to fade.
Serendipitously, Coady meet Bess de Farber, a grant manager at the UF and one of Coral Way’s first students. This fortuitous meeting led to a series of connections, pieces of a puzzle Coady found herself putting together in efforts to shine a light on this pioneering program.
In a recent piece written for the UF George A. Smathers Libraries, Special & Area Studies Collections, Coady notes, “the journey I undertook led me across the U.S. and Europe, to newspapers and obituaries, and to academic journals from the 1960s until today.”
All of this culminated into Coady’s most recent book, “The Coral Way Bilingual Program,” which helps to illuminate the past.
Moving Forward, Building on the Past
Coady hopes to continue building the Bilingual Education in Florida repository, growing FABE membership and outreach, and to turn awareness about the positive effects of bilingual education into actions that help to support student success.
“We need to be building on our past,” Coady said about the missing connections between today’s efforts and yesterday’s triumphs. “There’s still a long way to go.”