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Teaching ELLs Golden Berg American Educator

Teaching ELLs Golden Berg American Educator

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10/20/2011

 
AMERicAN EdUcATOR | SUMMER 2008
Should students who are learning English spend the school day in classes where only English is spoken? Or should they be taught reading and other academic skills and content in their nativelanguage? Or should their classes be primarily in English, but include some explanations or materials in their native language? I their native language is to be used, how much native languageinstruction should they receive and or what purposes? And aren’t there other issues we need to consider, aside rom language o instruction? Tese are important questions, and anyone who canprovide a quick answer is surely oversimpliying the issues. SomeEnglish language learners (ELLs) do not speak a word o Englishand are not literate in their native language. Others have someconversational English, but are not yet uent, and in their nativelanguage they are not only literate, but have mastered a great deal o academic content. Tere will probably never be a ormula or educating ELLs, just as there is no ormula or educating stu-dents who already know English. What we can do is provide guidelines based on our strongest research about eective prac-tices or teaching ELLs.It’s time to move beyond charged debates and all-too-certainanswers. What students need is or educators and policymakersto take a more in-depth look, starting with what existing researchdoes—and does not—say. In this article, Claude Goldenberg walksus through the major ndings o two recent reviews o the researchon educating ELLs. Given all the strong opinions one sees in news-paper op-eds, readers may be surprised to discover how little isactually known. What’s certain is that i we conducted moreresearch with ELLs, and paid more attention to the research that exists, we would be in a much better position. And so, we bring you this article with our goals in mind. First,we hope that everyone who engages in debates about educating ELLs will become a little more knowledgeable and, thereore, will start taking a little more nuanced positions. Second, we wish tospur more research (and more unding or more research). Tird,to keep the snake-oil salesmen at bay, we think it’s best or edu-cators to know what existing research cannot support. And  ourth, we believe that what has been reasonably well established is worth knowing.
–E 
ditors
By Claude Goldenberg
I
mi   i sc . Th-t th   miht  xpct t i spi ptts, iph-ths, sicti s,  i ps, cmm pfxs  s-ixs, tms  sms; hw tw witt istctis, itpt ws with mtip mis, ct im-ti i xpsit txts, s cmphsisttis  ck kw tst wht  , stcs  ct, iti itti hm, st stct ts  txtssch s thm, pt,  stti;  t  cct t st 80 ws p mit, ppximt 3,000 ws t  vc, ts i t hs  thss  wsm it tps  txts;  wit tivs i tts si pppit ms, -izti, citic mts, cpitizti,  pct-ti, visi s . A tht’s jst  css. At css  wi hv  simi ist  mth. A i  tt h t tt  sch wh  istcti hs t cmpt cips  i  mth, t ch ’ tcki sch this s mti, mtism, i ccs, vi-mts, wth,  ; itpti imti mims, phs,  chts; cmpi  ctsti jctssi thi phsic ttits; tci  mi hist, cm-pi th ivs   pts  pts t  i;ptti imptt vts i  timi; i th ctis,th stt wh  iv, mti s, mj ivs,  ks  mp  Nth Amic;  i hw imptt histi-c fs sch s Mti Lth Ki, J., At Eisti, A-
Teaching EnglishLanguage Learners
 Wht th Rsch Ds— Ds Nt—S 
Claude Goldenberg is proessor o education at Stanord University. Pre-viously, at Caliornia State University, Long Beach, he was associatedean o the College o Education and executive director o the Center or Language Minority Education and Research. He served on the National Research Council’s Committee or the Prevention o Early Reading Dif-culties in Young Children and on the National Literacy Panel, whichsynthesized research on literacy development among language minority children and youth. Tis article is adapted with permission rom“Improving Achievement or English Language Learners,” a chapter in
 , edited by Susan B. Neuman, orth-coming in August 2008, Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., Inc. Te author wishes to thank Rhoda Coleman, Ronald Gallimore, Patricia Gándara,Fred Genesee, Michael Graves, Peggy McCardle, Patricia Mathes,Michael Kamil, Bill Saunders, imothy Shanahan, Jessie Sullivan, Rob-ert Rueda, and Sharon Vaughn or their helpul comments.
   i   L   L   U   S   T   R   A   T   E   d   b   Y   E   R   i   c   W   E   S   T   b   R   O   O   K
 
AMERicAN EdUcATOR | SUMMER 2008
ham Lincoln, Cesar Chavez, and Sally Ride made a dierence inthe lives o others. Te expectations created by state and districtacademic standards can be a bit overwhelming—or studentsand or teachers.
1
Now, imagine that you don’t speak English very well. Your jobis to learn what everyone else is learning, plus learn English. Andit’s not sufcient to learn English so you can talk with your riendsand teacher about classroom routines, what you are having orlunch, where you went over the weekend, or who was mean to whom on the playground. You have to learn what is called “aca-demic English,” a term that reers to more abstract, complex, andchallenging language that will eventually permit you to partici-pate successully in mainstream classroom instruction. Aca-demic English involves such things as relating an event or a serieso events to someone who was not present, being able to makecomparisons between alternatives and justiy a choice, knowingdierent orms and inections o words and their appropriateuse, and possessing and using content-specic vocabulary andmodes o expression in dierent academic disciplines such asmathematics and social studies. As i this were not enough, youeventually need to be able to understand and produce academicEnglish both orally and in writing.
2
I you don’t, there is a realchance o alling behind your classmates, making poorer grades,getting discouraged, alling urther behind, and having ewer
 
10
AMERicAN EdUcATOR | SUMMER 2008
educational and occupational choices.Sound intimidating?his is the situation aced by millions o students in U.S.schools who do not speak English uently. Teir number hasgrown dramatically just in the past 15 years. In 1990, one in 20public school students in grades K-12 was an English languagelearner (ELL), that is, a student who speaks English either not atall or with enough limitations that he or she cannot ully partici-pate in mainstream English instruction. oday the gure is 1 in9. Demographers estimate that in 20 years it might be1 in 4. Te ELL population has grown rom 2 million to5 million since 1990, a period when the oerall schoolpopulation increased only 20 percent.
3
States not typi-cally associated with non-English speakers—Indiana,North Carolina, South Carolina, and ennessee—eachsaw an increase in the ELL population o at least 300percent between 1994-95 and 2004-05.
4
ELL students in the U.S. come rom oer 400 dier-ent language backgrounds. What may come as a sur-prise to many readers is that most ELLs were born inthe United States. Among elementary-age ELLs, 76percent were born in the U.S. Among middle- and high-school students, 56 percent were born in this country.Howeer, about 80 percent o ELLs’ parents were bornoutside o the U.S.
5
By ar, the majority o ELLs—80 percent—are Spanish speak-ers. his is an important act to bear in mind, since Spanishspeakers in the U.S. tend to come rom lower economic andeducational backgrounds than either the general population orother immigrants and language minority populations.
6
Forexample, nearly 24 percent o immigrants rom Mexico andCentral America are below the poerty leel, compared with 9to 14 percent o immigrants rom other regions o the world (and11.5 percent o the U.S. natie-born population). Fewer than 40percent o immigrants rom Mexico and Central America haethe equialent o a high school diploma, in contrast to between80 and 90 percent o other immigrants (and 87.5 percent o U.S.-born residents). Consequently, most ELLs are at risk or poorschool outcomes not only because o language, but alsobecause o socioeconomic actors.Speakers o Asian languages (e.g., vietnamese, Hmong,Chinese, Korean, Khmer, Laotian, Hindi, agalog) comprisethe next largest group—about eight percent o the ELL popula-tion. Students o Asian origin tend to come rom amilies withhigher income and education leels than do other immigrantamilies. For example, among immigrants rom the major world regions, the poerty rate o Asian immigrants is thesecond lowest (at 11.1 percent); only immigrants romEurope hae a lower poerty rate. Oer 87 percent o  Asian immigrants hae the equialent o a highschool diploma, the highest among immigrantsrom major world regions.
7
But these gureshide the tremendous diersity within the Asian populations in the U.S. For exam-ple, 50 percent or ewer Cambodian,Laotian, and Hmong adults in the U.S.hae completed the equialent o highschool and ewer than 10 percent haea college degree. In contrast, Filipinos, Indians, and Japanese inthe U.S. hae high school completion rates around 90 percent.Oer 60 percent o aiwanese and Indians in the U.S. hae collegedegrees.
8
  What sort o instructional enironments are ELLs in? Tisquestion is difcult to answer, partly because o denitional andreporting inconsistencies rom state to state.
9
Te most recentnational data come rom a 2001-02 school year surey.
10
o theextent the portrait is still accurate six years later, a majority o English learners—approximately 60 percent—are in essentially all-English instruction: one-th o these students—about 12percent o all ELLs—apparently receie no serices or supportat all related to their limited English prociency;* the other our-ths—nearly 50 percent o all ELLs—receie all-English instruc-tion, but with some amount o “LEP serices.” (ELLs were or-merly called “LEP” or limited English proicient; the term issometimes still used.) “LEP serices” can include aides orresource teachers specically or ELLs, instruction in English asa second language (ESL), and/or content instruction specially designed or students with limited English proiciency. heremaining ELLs—about 40 percent—are in programs that makesome use o their home language, but it is impossible to say whatis typical. In some cases, students receie one o seeral orms
On the 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress, fourth-grade ELLsscored 36 points below non-ELLs inreading and 25 points below non-ELLsin math. Te gaps among eighth-graders were even larger—42 points in readingand 37 points in math.

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