President Obama named Rosalinda B. Barrera assistant deputy secretary and director of the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) on Aug. 23, 2010. She is the principal adviser to Secretary Arne Duncan on all matters related to the education of English Learners, now estimated to be about 10 percent of the total school enrollment nationwide.
As head of OELA, Barrera administers programs under Titles III and V of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which support high-quality instructional programs for linguistically and culturally diverse students. Her office also supports foreign language programs for elementary, secondary and postsecondary students and professional development programs for language teachers in these fields.
She is committed to ensuring improvement in English language education through the Department's new educational initiatives, among them, Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation and the Teacher Quality Partnership.
Prior to joining the Department, Barrera served for five years as dean of the College of Education at Texas State University-San Marcos, which has the largest university-based teacher preparation program in Texas. Before that, she was at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for seven years, where as a professor of curriculum and instruction, she also served as associate director and, later, director, of the Center on Democracy in a Multiracial Society and, in 2004, was named an associate provost for the UIUC.
Barrera, née Benavides, was born in South Texas, where her father was a rural route mail carrier and her mother a homemaker. The oldest of four children, she was valedictorian of her high school class in Falfurrias, Texas, before enrolling at the University of Texas, where she earned a B.A. degree in journalism with honors in 1968. She completed a master's in communication at UT a year later before working for two years as a reporter with the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.
Subsequently, she served as a curriculum editor for the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory in Austin and, in 1973, began doctoral studies at the University of Texas with a specialization in reading education. Concurrently, she taught in a bilingual elementary school in the Austin Independent School District, before moving to southern New Mexico in 1975. She then served as a reading specialist for the Region 19 Education Service Center in El Paso before becoming director of K-12 curriculum and instruction for the Socorro school district outside El Paso.
After receiving her doctorate in 1978, Barrera joined the faculty at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces in 1980 and, while there, did semester-long visiting professorships at the University of Arizona and the University of California-Berkeley, before being named full professor of curriculum and instruction at NMSU in 1993. Also, she led the New Mexico Professional Standards Commission for the state Board of Education for two years and chaired a statewide Teacher Licensing Task Force.
An editorial board member of numerous academic journals, Barrera was the co-editor of the 2002 book Multicultural Issues in Literacy Research and Practice and the 1997 Kaleidoscope: A Multicultural Booklist for Grades K-8. Her past professional service includes membership on the reading committee of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the National Advisory Committee on Head Start Research and Evaluation, the literacy advisory board for Reading Is Fundamental, and board of director positions for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and the National Latino Education Research and Policy Project.
An aficionado of xeric gardening and architectural history and style, Barrera and her husband, Cecilio, a retired microbiology professor and university administrator, have two grandchildren and divide their time between an apartment in Washington, D.C., and a home in San Marcos, Texas. The couple has two daughters, Marisa, who works for the nonprofit microlender ACCION USA in Tucson. Ariz., and Cristina, a preschool teacher in Fort Collins, Colo.