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On November 1996, as a member of the NABE Executive Board, Maria Estela Brisk gathered a group of leaders in Washington to discuss how to promote success in bilingual education (see NABE News 12/15/96). The steering committee included Donna Christian, President, Center for Applied Linguistics; Minerva Gorena, Associate Director, National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education (NCBE); Delia Pompa, Director, Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Language Affairs (OBEMLA); Charlene Rivera, Director, The George Washington University, Center for Equity and Excellence in Education; and Nancy Zelasko, Deputy Director, NABE.
The group suggested the creation of a database that would include programs, teachers, and graduates. Maria lent the title "Portraits of Success" out of one of her publications on successful graduates of bilingual education programs in Massachusetts. At this meeting it was decided that the first priority was to establish criteria for selection to protect the credibility of the project, that the project would focus on bilingual education and not on education of language minority students, and that it would identify schools and individuals by name (unlike much of the research which does not identify sources to protect privacy). The NABE Executive Board approved the project as a NABE initiative.
On October 1997, a larger group met in Boston sponsored by the Regional LAB at Brown and other Regional Labs. The attendants became the project's Advisory Board. At this meeting it was decided to focus initially on programs. Criteria for program eligibility were established and proposed criteria for selection were revised and approved. The Advisory Board and their institutions committed to support the project.
The project was subsequently promoted through articles and requests for nominations in the NABE News and the NCBE electronic newsletter, presentations at the NABE, MABE, and TABE conferences, at a meeting of the Massachusetts Association of Bilingual Program Directors, and by approaching programs that presented at NABE Conferences.
The LAB at Brown sponsored a meeting on May 28th, 1998 in Providence with representatives from all the states in the LAB's region. Participants committed to contribute to the project. A search through the literature provided additional names of exemplary programs that fit the project's criteria.
The LAB at Brown University and Boston University's Bilingual Program collaborated with NABE during 1998 and 1999 to secure nominations, disseminate the project, and start the development of the database. The database is housed at the LAB at Brown. The LAB at Brown also provided the technical assistance to develop the Web site.
Note on clarification of terms: The term bilingual is used throughout this project to refer to students who are at different levels of proficiency in the two or more languages they are developing. The literature also uses terms such as English Language Learners or Limited English Proficient to refer to these students in order to suggest level of English proficiency.
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