Spotlight: Coalition of Community-Based Schools

Spotlight: Coalition of Community-Based Schools

The Coalition of Community-Based Language Schools held its ninth annual conference on October 7th and 8th, 2022. The coalition holds annual conferences with the aim of bringing together leaders from community-based language schools that represent various heritage languages.

Community-based language schools teach heritage language learners and are usually led by non-profit organizations and parents from language communities, according to the Coalition.

At the most recent conference, keynote speakers, teachers, and administrators presented on numerous topics, such as technology in the classroom, with the aim of enhancing the education of heritage language learners. The conference program also included workshops and networking sessions, with participants spanning from across the US and even internationally. 

Joy Kreeft Peyton, a Senior fellow at the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL), heads Coalition leadership and conference planning. Peyton, who has worked for over 35 years in educational improvement at an international level, co-founded the Alliance for the Advancement of Heritage Languages, which researched and reported on heritage language schools. Members of the Alliance would go on to attend UCLA’s International Conferences on Heritage Languages, which are held every four years and most recently in 2022. 


Czech and Slovak School of North Carolina

Peyton and the Alliance were motivated to turn more attention towards language schools at the pre-university level due to the lack of professional development opportunities and funding at K-12 and community-based schools, which would help to adequately address the needs of heritage language practitioners. 

“Most of the people [at the conferences we went to focused on heritage languages] were from universities,” Peyton said. “They’re the people that can afford to go. Most of the talks were focused on university issues. We decided that we wanted to form an organization focused on community-based schools.” 

As a result, Peyton collaborated with Olga Kagan, the former Director of the UCLA International Institute’s Center for World Languages and Director of the National Heritage Language Resource Center (NHLRC), to form the Coalition in 2012, with the aim of focusing on issues pertaining to community-based language schools. The Coalition started holding conferences for U.S. community-based schools in 2014 and, since the onset of the pandemic, has expanded its outreach to include international participants with the use of Zoom technology.

“Another purpose of the conference…is to connect with [schools],” Peyton said. “We don’t yet know everyone working with community-based schools,but we are slowly making progress.”


A Brazilian Heritage Language School in Washington, DC

Many of the heritage languages taught at these community-based schools include less commonly taught languages like Tamil and Bulgarian. The work of the Coalition has garnered the attention of mainstream language stakeholders as well as individuals from the Spanish embassy offering collaboration with the Coalition, according to Peyton. The Spanish representatives presented on the North American Language and Culture Assistants Program (NALCAP), which offers chances for students to assist in English language courses in Spain. 

Peyton also said that Coalition leaders and school representatives can learn from each other and work with other organizations to solidify the role of community-based language learning across the nation and internationally. With the collaboration of worldwide representatives, the Coalition recently published international guidelines for community-based schools. Regular meetings are conducted to continue accepting feedback and improving upon these guidelines. 

In the near future, the Coalition hopes to gain more language representatives to connect with community language schools across the globe, particularly with languages that are less commonly taught and spoken in the US. Moreover, Peyton hopes these schools, which teach languages that are not taught in typical K-12 settings, can become more visible and more well-respected for their work. In particular, she hopes the Coalition can help facilitate the creation of new umbrella organizations to help coordinate the direction of community-based schools of the same language.  

The NHLRC at UCLA has partnered with the Coalition from the beginning and continues to support their work. 

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Published: Friday, January 20, 2023