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Effective Literacy and

English Language Instruction
for English Learners
in the Elementary Grades

NCEE 2007-4011
The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) publishes practice guides in education
to bring the best available evidence and expertise to bear on the types of systemic
challenges that cannot currently be addressed by single interventions or programs.
Authors of practice guides seldom conduct the types of systematic literature searches
that are the backbone of a meta-analysis, though they take advantage of such work
when it is already published. Instead, they use their expertise to identify the most
important research with respect to their recommendations, augmented by a search
of recent publications to assure that the research citations are up-to-date.

One unique feature of IES-sponsored practice guides is that they are subjected to
rigorous external peer review through the same office that is responsible for inde-
pendent review of other IES publications. A critical task of the peer reviewers of a
practice guide is to determine whether the evidence cited in support of particular
recommendations is up-to-date and that studies of similar or better quality that
point in a different direction have not been ignored. Because practice guides depend
on the expertise of their authors and their group decisionmaking, the content of a
practice guide is not and should not be viewed as a set of recommendations that in
every case depends on and flows inevitably from scientific research.

The goal of this practice guide is to formulate specific and coherent evidence-based
recommendations for use by educators addressing a multifaceted challenge that
lacks developed or evaluated packaged approaches. The challenge is effective lit-
eracy instruction for English learners in the elementary grades. The guide provides
practical and coherent information on critical topics related to literacy instruction
for English learners.

Effective Literacy and

English Language Instruction
for English Learners
in the Elementary Grades

December 2007
(Format revised)

Russell Gersten (Chair)


Scott K. Baker

Timothy Shanahan

Sylvia Linan-Thompson

Penny Collins
Robin Scarcella

NCEE 2007-4011
This report was prepared for the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional
Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences under Contract ED-02-CO-0022 by the What
Works Clearinghouse, a project of a joint venture of the American Institutes for Re-
search and The Campbell Collaboration, and Contract ED-05-CO-0026 by Optimal So-
lutions Group, LLC.

The opinions and positions expressed in this practice guide are the authors’ and do not
necessarily represent the opinions and positions of the Institute of Education Sciences
or the United States Department of Education. This practice guide should be reviewed
and applied according to the specific needs of the educators and education agency using
it and with full realization that it represents only one approach that might be taken,
based on the research that was available at the time of publication. This practice guide
should be used as a tool to assist in decision-making rather than as a “cookbook.” Any
references within the document to specific education products are illustrative and do
not imply endorsement of these products to the exclusion of other products that are
not referenced.

U.S. Department of Education

Margaret Spellings

Institute of Education Sciences

Grover J. Whitehurst

National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance

Phoebe Cottingham

December 2007
(The content is the same as the July 2007 version, but the format has been revised for
this version.)

This report is in the public domain. While permission to reprint this publication is not
necessary, the citation should be:

Gersten, R., Baker, S.K., Shanahan, T., Linan-Thompson, S., Collins, P., & Scarcella, R. (2007).
Effective Literacy and English Language Instruction for English Learners in the Ele­mentary
Grades: A Practice Guide (NCEE 2007-4011). Washington, DC: National Center for Education
Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of
Education. Retrieved from

This report is available on the IES web site at and

Alternate Formats
On request, this publication can be made available in alternate formats, such as Braille,
large print, audio tape, or computer diskette. For more information, call the Alternate
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Effective literacy and english language instruction for english learners in the elementary grades

Preamble from the Institute of Education Sciences v

About the authors vii

Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest ix

Introduction 1

The What Works Clearinghouse standards and their relevance to this guide 3

Effective instruction for English learners 4

Overview 4

Scope of the practice guide 4

Checklist for carrying out the recommendations 7

Recommendation 1. Screen for reading problems and monitor progress 9

Recommendation 2. Provide intensive small-group reading interventions 15

Recommendation 3. Provide extensive and varied vocabulary instruction 19

Recommendation 4. Develop academic English 23

Recommendation 5. Schedule regular peer‑assisted learning opportunities 28

Appendix. Technical information on the studies 31

Recommendation 1. Screen for reading problems and monitor progress 31

Recommendation 2. Provide intensive small-group reading interventions 32

Recommendation 3. Provide extensive and varied vocabulary instruction 33

Recommendation 4. Develop academic English 35

Recommendation 5. Schedule regular peer-assisted learning opportunities 36

References 38

( iii )
Effective literacy and english language instruction for english learners in the elementary grades

List of tables
Table 1. Institute of Education Sciences Levels of Evidence 2

Table 2. Recommendations and corresponding level of evidence to support each 6

( iv )
Preamble from that do not involve randomization, and the
bottom level from the opinions of respected
the Institute of authorities. Levels of evidence can also be
Education Sciences constructed around the value of particular
types of studies for other goals, such as the
What is a practice guide? reliability and validity of assessments.

The health care professions have embraced Practice guides can also be distinguished
a mechanism for assembling and commu- from systematic reviews or meta-analyses,
nicating evidence-based advice to practitio- which use statistical methods to summarize
ners about care for specific clinical condi- the results of studies obtained from a rule-
tions. Variously called practice guidelines, based search of the literature. Authors of
treatment protocols, critical pathways, best practice guides seldom conduct the types
practice guides, or simply practice guides, of systematic literature searches that are
these documents are systematically devel- the backbone of a meta-analysis, though
oped recommendations about the course of they take advantage of such work when it
care for frequently encountered problems, is already published. Instead, they use their
ranging from physical conditions such as expertise to identify the most important re-
foot ulcers to psychosocial conditions such search with respect to their recommenda-
as adolescent development.1 tions, augmented by a search of recent pub-
lications to assure that the research citations
Practice guides are similar to the products are up-to-date. Further, the characterization
of expert consensus panels in reflecting the of the quality and direction of the evidence
views of those serving on the panel and the underlying a recommendation in a practice
social decisions that come into play as the guide relies less on a tight set of rules and
positions of individual panel members are statistical algorithms and more on the judg-
forged into statements that all are willing to ment of the authors than would be the case
endorse. However, practice guides are gen- in a high-quality meta-analysis. Another
erated under three constraints that typically distinction is that a practice guide, because
do not apply to consensus panels. The first is it aims for a comprehensive and coherent
that a practice guide consists of a list of dis- approach, operates with more numerous
crete recommendations that are intended to and more contextualized statements of what
be actionable. The second is that those rec- works than does a typical meta-analysis.
ommendations taken together are intended
to be a coherent approach to a multifaceted Thus, practice guides sit somewhere be-
problem. The third, which is most important, tween consensus reports and meta-analyses
is that each recommendation is explicitly in the degree to which systematic processes
connected to the level of evidence supporting are used for locating relevant research and
it, with the level represented by a grade (for characterizing its meaning. Practice guides
example, high, moderate, or low). are more like consensus panel reports than
meta-analyses in the breadth and com-
The levels of evidence, or grades, are usually plexity of the topics they address. Practice
constructed around the value of particular guides are different from both consensus
types of studies for drawing causal conclu- reports and meta-analyses in providing
sions about what works. Thus, one typically advice at the level of specific action steps
finds that the top level of evidence is drawn along a pathway that represents a more or
from a body of randomized controlled trials, less coherent and comprehensive approach
the middle level from well designed studies to a multifaceted problem.

1.  Field & Lohr (1990).

Preamble from the Institute of Education Sciences

Practice guides in education at the that they are the authors and thus respon-
Institute of Education Sciences sible for the final product.

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) pub- One unique feature of IES-sponsored practice
lishes practice guides in education to bring guides is that they are subjected to rigorous
the best available evidence and expertise to external peer review through the same office
bear on the types of systemic challenges that that is responsible for independent review of
cannot currently be addressed by single inter- other IES publications. A critical task of the
ventions or programs. Although IES has taken peer reviewers of a practice guide is to deter-
advantage of the history of practice guides mine whether the evidence cited in support
in health care to provide models of how to of particular recommendations is up-to-date
proceed in education, education is different and that studies of similar or better quality
from health care in ways that may require that point in a different direction have not
that practice guides in education have some- been ignored. Peer reviewers also are asked
what different designs. Even within health to evaluate whether the evidence grades as-
care, where practice guides now number in signed to particular recommendations by
the thousands, there is no single template in the practice guide authors are appropriate. A
use. Rather, one finds descriptions of gen- practice guide is revised as necessary to meet
eral design features that permit substantial the concerns of external peer reviews and
variation in the realization of practice guides gain the approval of the standards and review
across subspecialties and panels of experts.2 staff at IES. The external peer review is carried
Accordingly, the templates for IES practice out independent of the office and staff within
guides may vary across practice guides and IES that instigated the practice guide.
change over time and with experience.
Because practice guides depend on the ex-
The steps involved in producing an IES- pertise of their authors and their group
sponsored practice guide are, first, to se- decisionmaking, the content of a practice
lect a topic, informed by formal surveys of guide is not and should not be viewed as a
practitioners and requests. Next is to recruit set of recommendations that in every case
a panel chair who has a national reputation depends on and flows inevitably from scien-
and up-to-date expertise in the topic. Third, tific research. It is not only possible but also
the chair, working with IES, selects a small likely that two teams of recognized experts
number of panelists to coauthor the practice working independently to produce a prac-
guide. These are people the chair believes tice guide on the same topic would generate
can work well together and have the requi- products that differ in important respects.
site expertise to be a convincing source of Thus, consumers of practice guides need to
recommendations. IES recommends that at understand that they are, in effect, getting
one least one of the panelists be a practi- the advice of consultants. These consultants
tioner with experience relevant to the topic should, on average, provide substantially
being addressed. The chair and the panel- better advice than an individual school dis-
ists are provided a general template for a trict might obtain on its own because the
practice guide along the lines of the infor- authors are national authorities who have
mation provided here. The practice guide to achieve consensus among themselves,
panel works under a short deadline of six to justify their recommendations with support-
nine months to produce a draft document. ing evidence, and undergo rigorous indepen-
It interacts with and receives feedback from dent peer review of their product.
staff at IES during the development of the
practice guide, but its members understand Institute of Education Sciences

2.  American Psychological Association (2002).

( vi )
About the authors of the International Reading Association
until May 2007. He was executive director
Dr. Russell Gersten is executive director of the Chicago Reading Initiative, a pub-
of Instructional Research Group, a non- lic school improvement project serving
profit educational research institute, as 437,000 children, in 2001–02. He received
well as professor emeritus in the College of the Albert J. Harris Award for outstanding
Education at the University of Oregon. He research on reading disability from the In-
currently serves as principal investigator ternational Reading Association. Dr. Sha-
for the What Works Clearinghouse on the nahan served on the White House Assem-
topic of instructional research on English bly on Reading and the National Reading
language learners. He is currently princi- Panel, a group convened by the National
pal investigator of two large Institute of Institute of Child Health and Human De-
Education Sciences projects involving ran- velopment at the request of Congress to
domized trials in the areas of Reading First evaluate research on successful methods
professional development and reading of teaching reading. He has written or ed-
comprehension research. His main areas ited six books, including Multidisciplinary
of expertise are instructional research on Perspectives on Literacy, and more than
English learners, mathematics instruc- 100 articles and research studies. Dr.
tion, reading comprehension research, Shanahan’s research focuses on the re-
and evaluation methodology. In 2002 Dr. lationship of reading and writing, school
Gersten received the Distinguished Spe- improvement, the assessment of reading
cial Education Researcher Award from ability, and family literacy. He chaired
the American Educational Research As- the National Literacy Panel on Language-
sociation’s Special Education Research Minority Children and Youth and the Na-
Division. Dr. Gersten has more than 150 tional Early Literacy Panel.
publications in scientific journals, such as
Review of Educational Research, American Dr. Sylvia Linan-Thompson is an associ-
Educational Research Journal, Reading Re- ate professor, Fellow in the Mollie V. Davis
search Quarterly, Educational Leadership, Professorship in Learning Disabilities at
and Exceptional Children. The University of Texas at Austin, and
director of the Vaughn Gross Center for
Dr. Scott Baker is the director of Pacific Reading and Language Arts. She is associ-
Institutes for Research in Eugene, Ore- ate director of the National Research and
gon. He specializes in early literacy mea- Development Center on English Language
surement and instruction in reading and Learners, which is examining the effect of
mathematics. Dr. Baker is co-principal instructional practices that enhance vo-
investigator on two grants funded by the cabulary and comprehension for middle
Institute of Education Sciences, and he is school English learners in content areas.
the co­director of the Oregon Reading First She has developed and examined reading
Center. Dr. Baker’s scholarly contributions interventions for struggling readers who
include conceptual, qualitative, and quan- are monolingual English speakers, English
titative publications on a range of topics learners, and bilingual students acquiring
related to students at risk for school dif- Spanish literacy.
ficulties and students who are English
learners. Dr. Penny Collins (formerly Chiappe)
is an assistant professor in the Depart-
Dr. Timothy Shanahan is professor of ment of Education at the University of
urban education at the University of Illi- California, Irvine. Her research exam-
nois at Chicago (UIC) and director of the ines the development of reading skills
UIC Center for Literacy. He was president for children from linguistically diverse
( vii )
About the authors

backgrounds and the early identification Dr. Robin Scarcella is a professor in the
of children at risk for reading difficulties. School of Humanities at the University of
She is involved in projects on effective California, Irvine, where she also directs
instructional interventions to promote the Program of Academic English/ESL. She
academic success for English learners has taught English as a second language
in elementary, middle, and secondary in California’s elementary and second-
schools. Dr. Collins is on the editorial ary schools and colleges. She has written
boards of Journal of Learning Disabilities many research articles, appearing in such
and Educational Psychology. Her work has journals as The TESOL Quarterly and Stud-
appeared in Applied Psycholinguistics, ies in Second Language Acquisition, as well
Journal of Educational Psychology, Jour- as in books. Her most recent volume, Ac-
nal of Experimental Child Psychology, and celerating Academic English, was published
Scientific Studies of Reading. by the University of California.

( viii )
Disclosure of potential series is not referenced in the practice
conflicts of interest guide.

Dr. Baker has an author agreement with

Practice guide panels are composed of in- Cambium Learning to produce an instruc-
dividuals who are nationally recognized tional module for English learners. This
experts on the topics about which they are module is not written and is not referenced
rendering recommendations. IES expects in the practice guide.
that such experts will be involved profes-
sionally in a variety of matters that relate Dr. Linan-Thompson was one of the pri-
to their work as a panel. Panel members mary researchers on intervention studies
are asked to disclose their professional that used Proactive Reading curriculum,
involvements and to institute deliberative and she developed the ESL adaptations
processes that encourage critical examina- for the intervention. Linan-Thompson co-
tion the views of panel members as they authored the research reports that are de-
relate to the content of the practice guide. scribed in the guide.
The potential influence of panel members’
professional engagements is further muted Dr. Shanahan receives royalties on vari-
by the requirement that they ground their ous curricula designed for elementary and
recommendations in evidence that is docu- middle school reading instruction, includ-
mented in the practice guide. In addition, ing Harcourt Achieve Elements of Reading
the practice guide is subjected to indepen- Fluency (Grades 1-3); Macmillan McGraw-Hill
dent external peer review prior to publica- Treasures (Grades K-6); and AGS Glove-Pear-
tion, with particular focus on whether the son AMP (Grades 6-8). None of these prod-
evidence related to the recommendations ucts, though widely used, are aimed spe-
in the practice guide has been has been cifically at the English learner instructional
appropriately presented. market (the focus of this practice guide).
Macmillan publishes a separate program
The professional engagements reported aimed at the English learner population.
by each panel members that appear most Shanahan is not involved in that program.
closely associated with the panel recom-
mendations are noted below. Dr. Scarcella provides on-going teacher
professional development services on aca-
Dr. Gersten, the panel chair, is a co-­author demic vocabulary through the University
of a forthcoming Houghton Mifflin K-6 of California Professional Development
reading series that includes material re- Institutes that are authorized by the Cali-
lated to English learners. The reading fornia State Board of Education.

( ix )
Introduction quasi-experimental studies, such as those
meeting the criteria of the What Works
The goal of this practice guide is to formu- Clearinghouse, have a privileged position
late specific and coherent evidence-based ( In all cases we
recommendations for use by educators pay particular attention to patterns of find-
addressing a multifaceted challenge that ings that are replicated across studies.
lacks developed or evaluated packaged ap-
proaches. The challenge is effective liter- Although we draw on evidence about the
acy instruction for English learners in the effectiveness of specific programs and
elementary grades. At one level, the target practices, we use this information to make
audience is a broad spectrum of school broader points about improving practice.
practitioners—administrators, curriculum In this document we have tried to take a
specialists, coaches, staff development finding from research or a practice recom-
specialists, and teachers. At another level, mended by experts and describe how the
a more specific objective is to reach dis- use of this practice or recommendation
trict-level administrators with a practice might actually unfold in school settings.
guide that will help them develop practice In other words we aim to provide sufficient
and policy options for their schools. The detail so that a curriculum director would
guide includes specific recommendations have a clear sense of the steps necessary
for district administrators and indicates to make use of the recommendation.
the quality of the evidence that supports
these recommendations. A unique feature of practice guides is
the explicit and clear delineation of the
Our expectation is that a superintendent ­quality—as well as quantity—of evidence
or curriculum director could use this prac- that supports each claim. To do this, we
tice guide to help make decisions about adapted a semistructured hierarchy sug-
policy involving literacy instruction for gested by the Institute of Education Sci-
English learners in the elementary grades. ences. This classification system uses both
For example, we include recommenda- the quality and quantity of available evi-
tions on curriculum selection, sensible dence to help determine the strength of the
assessments for monitoring progress, evidence base in which each recommended
and reasonable expectations for student practice is grounded (see table 1).
achievement and growth. The guide pro-
vides practical and coherent information Strong refers to consistent and generaliz-
on critical topics related to literacy instruc- able evidence that an approach or practice
tion for English learners. causes better outcomes for English learn-
ers or that an assessment is reliable and
We, the authors, are a small group with ex- valid. Moderate refers either to evidence
pertise on various dimensions of this topic. from studies that allow strong causal con-
Several of us are also experts in research clusions but cannot be generalized with
methodology. The range of evidence we assurance to the population on which a rec-
considered in developing this document is ommendation is focused (perhaps because
vast, from expert analyses of curricula and the findings have not been sufficiently rep-
programs, to case studies of seemingly ef- licated) or to evidence from studies that are
fective classrooms and schools, to trends generalizable but have more causal ambi-
in the National Assessment of Educational guity than offered by experimental designs
Progress data, to correlational studies and (such as statistical models of correlational
longitudinal studies of patterns of typical data or group comparison designs where
development. For questions about what equivalence of the groups at pretest is un-
works best, high-quality experimental and certain). For the assessments, moderate

Table 1. Institute of Education Sciences Levels of Evidence

In general, characterization of the evidence for a recommendation as strong requires both studies with
high internal validity (i.e., studies whose designs can support causal conclusions), as well as studies with
high external validity (i.e., studies that in total include enough of the range of participants and settings
on which the recommendation is focused to support the conclusion that the results can be generalized
to those participants and settings). Strong evidence for this practice guide is operationalized as:
• A systematic review of research that generally meets the standards of the What Works Clearing-
house (see and supports the effectiveness of a program, practice, or
approach with no contradictory evidence of similar quality; OR
• Several well-designed, randomized, controlled trials or well-designed quasi-experiments that gen-
erally meet the standards of the What Works Clearinghouse and support the effectiveness of a pro-
gram, practice, or approach, with no contradictory evidence of similar quality; OR
• One large, well-designed, randomized, controlled, multisite trial that meets the standards of the
What Works Clearinghouse and supports the effectiveness of a program, practice, or approach, with
no contradictory evidence of similar quality; OR
• For assessments, evidence of reliability and validity that meets the Standards for Educational and
Psychological Testing.

In general, characterization of the evidence for a recommendation as moderate requires studies with
high internal validity but moderate external validity, or studies with high external validity but moderate
internal validity. In other words, moderate evidence is derived from studies that support strong causal
conclusions but where generalization is uncertain, or studies that support the generality of a relationship
but where the causality is uncertain. Moderate evidence for this practice guide is operationalized as:
• Experiments or quasi-experiments generally meeting the standards of the What Works Clearing-
house and supporting the effectiveness of a program, practice, or approach with small sample sizes
and/or other conditions of implementation or analysis that limit generalizability, and no contrary
evidence; OR
• Comparison group studies that do not demonstrate equivalence of groups at pretest and therefore
do not meet the standards of the What Works Clearinghouse but that (a) consistently show enhanced
outcomes for participants experiencing a particular program, practice, or approach and (b) have no
major flaws related to internal validity other than lack of demonstrated equivalence at pretest (e.g.,
only one teacher or one class per condition, unequal amounts of instructional time, highly biased
outcome measures); OR
• Correlational research with strong statistical controls for selection bias and for discerning influence
of endogenous factors and no contrary evidence; OR
• For assessments, evidence of reliability that meets the Standards for Educational and Psychological
Testing but with evidence of validity from samples not adequately representative of the population
on which the recommendation is focused.

In general, characterization of the evidence for a recommendation as low means that the recom-
mendation is based on expert opinion derived from strong findings or theories in related areas
Low and/or expert opinion buttressed by direct evidence that does not rise to the moderate or strong
levels. Low evidence is operationalized as evidence not meeting the standards for the moderate
or high levels.

Source: American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, and National Council
on Measurement in Education (1999).


refers to high-quality studies from a small (c) Does Not Meet Evidence Screens for
number of samples that are not represen- studies that do not provide strong evi-
tative of the whole population. Low refers dence of causal validity.
to expert opinion based on reasonable ex-
trapolations from research and theory on In this English learner practice guide we
other topics and evidence from studies that use effect sizes for describing the magni-
do not meet the standards for moderate or tude of impact of a program or practice
strong evidence. reported in a study. This metric is increas-
ingly used in social science research to
The What Works Clearinghouse provide a gauge of the magnitude of the
standards and their improvement in performance reported in a
relevance to this guide research study. A common index of effect
size is the mean difference between the
In terms of the levels of evidence indicated experimental and comparison conditions
in table 1, we rely on the What Works Clear- expressed in standard deviation units. In
inghouse (WWC) Evidence Standards to accordance with the What Works Clearing-
assess the quality of evidence supporting house criteria we describe an effect size of
educational programs and practices. The +0.25 or higher as substantively important.
WWC addresses evidence for the causal This is equivalent to raising performance
validity of instructional programs and of a group of students at least 10 percen-
practices according to WWC Standards. In- tile points on a valid test.
formation about these standards is avail-
able at For each recommendation we include an
reviewprocess/standards.html. The tech- appendix that provides more technical in-
nical quality of each study is rated and formation about the studies and our deci-
placed into one of three categories: sions regarding level of evidence for the
recommendation. To illustrate the types of
(a) Meets Evidence Standards for random- studies reviewed we describe one study in
ized controlled trials and regression considerable detail for each recommenda-
discontinuity studies that provide the tion. Our goal in doing this is to provide
strongest evidence of causal validity; interested readers with more detail about
the research designs, the intervention
(b) Meets Evidence Standards with Reserva- components, and how impact was mea-
tions for all quasi-experimental studies sured. By including a particular study,
with no design flaws and randomized we do not mean to suggest that it is the
controlled trials that have problems best study reviewed for the recommenda-
with randomization, attrition, or dis- tion or necessarily an exemplary study in
ruption; and any way.

Effective instruction stories among English learners—both for
for English learners individual students and for schools. These
students, despite having to learn English
while mastering a typical school curricu-
Overview lum, have “beaten the odds” in academic
The National Assessment of Educational
Progress (NAEP) has tracked the achieve- How can we increase the chances that
ment of Hispanic students since 1975. Al- more English learners will achieve these
though many English learners are in the successes? To answer, we must turn first
Hispanic designation, English learners as to research. Unfortunately, there has not
a group have only recently been disaggre- been sufficient research aimed at under-
gated in the NAEP analyses. Recent analy- standing how to improve the quality of
sis of long-term trends3 reveals that the literacy instruction for English learners.
achievement gap between Hispanics and Only about a dozen studies reach the level
Whites in reading has been significantly of rigor necessary to determine that spe-
reduced over the past 30 years for 9-year- cific instructional practices or programs
olds and 17-year-olds (although not for do, in fact, produce significantly better
13-year-olds).4 academic outcomes with English learners.
This work has been analyzed and reviewed
Despite apparent progress in the earlier by the What Works Clearinghouse (the
grades, major problems persist. For in- work of the Clearinghouse is integrated
stance, the 2005 achievement gap of 35 into our text when relevant; new studies
points in reading between fourth-grade will be added periodically).
English learners and non-English learners
was greater than the Black-White achieve- Despite the paucity of rigorous experimen-
ment gap.5 And the body of scientific re- tal research, we believe that the available
search on effective instructional strategies evidence allows us to provide practical rec-
is limited for teaching English learners.6 ommendations about aspects of instruction
on which research has cast the sharpest
There have been some significant recent light. This research suggests—as opposed
advances. Of particular note is the in- to demonstrates—the practices most likely
crease in rigorous instructional research to improve learning for English learners.
with English learners. Districts and states
have increasingly assessed progress of Scope of the practice guide
English learners in academic areas and in
English language development. Several ex- Over the years many terms have been
amples in the literature illustrate success used to refer to children who enter school
using a language other than English: lim-
ited English proficiency (LEP), English as a
3.  See
second language (ESL), English for speak-
results2004/sub_reading_race2.asp (retrieved
ers of other languages (ESOL), second lan-
October 9, 2006).
guage learners, language minority stu-
4.  See dents, and so on. In this practice guide we
reading_math_2005/s0015.asp (retrieved March
use “English learners” because we feel it is
16, 2007).
the most descriptive and accurate term for
5.  See the largest number of children. This term
reading_math_2005/s0015.asp. says nothing about children’s language
6.  August & Hakuta (1997); Shanahan & August
(2006). 7.  Morrison Institute for Public Policy (2006).


proficiency or how many other languages the results are inconclusive.10 Many re-
they may use—it simply recognizes that views have cited serious methodological
they are learning English. flaws in all the studies in terms of inter-
nal validity;11 others have not addressed
This practice guide provides five recom- the quality of the research design.12 Cur-
mendations, integrated into a coherent and rently, schools operate under an array
comprehensive approach for improving of divergent policies set by the state and
the reading achievement and English lan- local school district. In most cases school
guage development of English learners in administrators have little say on issues in-
the elementary grades (see table 2). volving language of initial reading instruc-
tion, so we do not take a position on this
We have not addressed two main areas. intricate issue for this practice guide.

First, we did not address English learners One major theme in our recommendations
in middle school and high school. Schools is the importance of intensive, interactive
face very different issues in designing in- English language development instruction
struction for students who enter school for all English learners. This instruction
when they are young (and often have re- needs to focus on developing academic
ceived no education or minimal instruc- language (i.e., the decontextualized lan-
tion in another language or education guage of the schools, the language of aca-
system) and those who enter in grades 6 demic discourse, of texts, and of formal
to 12 and often are making a transition to argument). This area, which researchers
another language and another education and practitioners feel has been neglected,
system. For that reason we chose to focus is one of the key targets in this guide.
on only one of these populations, students
in the elementary grades. We would like to thank the following in-
dividuals for their helpful feedback and
Second, we did not address the language of reviews of earlier versions of this guide:
instruction. Our goal is to provide guidance Catherine Snow and Nonie Lesaux of Har-
for all English learners, whether they are vard University; Maria Elena Arguelles, in-
taught to read in their home language, in dependent consultant; Margaret McKeown
English (by far the most prevalent method of University of Pittsburgh; Michael Coyne
in the United States), or in both languages of University of Connecticut; Benjamin S.
simultaneously. The recommendations are Clarke of University of Oregon and Jeanie
relevant for students regardless of their Smith of Pacific Institutes for Research;
language of reading instruction. The best and Lana Edwards Santoro and Rebecca
language to use for initial reading instruc- Newman-Gonchar of RG Research Group.
tion has been the subject of great debate We also wish to acknowledge the excep-
and numerous reviews of the literature. tional contribution of Elyse Hunt-Heinzen,
our research assistant on the project, and
Some experts conclude that students we thank Charlene Gatewood of Optimal
are best served by having some read- Solutions and the anonymous reviewers
ing instruction in their native language,8 for their contributions to the refinement
others that students should be taught to of this report.
read simultaneously in both English and
their native language,9 still others that 10.  August & Hakuta (1997); Rossell & Baker
11.  August & Hakuta (1997); Francis, Lesaux, &
8.  Greene (1997). August (2006).
9.  Slavin & Cheung (2005). 12.  Greene (1997).


Table 2. Recommendations and corresponding level of evidence to support each

Recommendation Level of evidence

1. Conduct formative assessments with English learners using English language measures of pho-
nological processing, letter knowledge, and word and text reading. Use these data to identify
English learners who require additional instructional support and to monitor their reading
progress over time.

2. Provide focused, intensive small-group interventions for English learners determined to be at

risk for reading problems. Although the amount of time in small-group instruction and the in-
tensity of this instruction should reflect the degree of risk, determined by reading assessment
data and other indicators, the interventions should include the five core reading elements (pho-
nological awareness, phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension). Explicit, direct
instruction should be the primary means of instructional delivery.

3. Provide high-quality vocabulary instruction throughout the day. Teach essential content words
in depth. In addition, use instructional time to address the meanings of common words, phrases, Strong
and expressions not yet learned.

4. Ensure that the development of formal or academic English is a key instructional goal for Eng-
lish learners, beginning in the primary grades. Provide curricula and supplemental curricula to
accompany core reading and mathematics series to support this goal. Accompany with relevant
training and professional development.

5. Ensure that teachers of English learners devote approximately 90 minutes a week to in-
structional activities in which pairs of students at different ability levels or different Eng-
lish language proficiencies work together on academic tasks in a structured fashion. These
activities should practice and extend material already taught.

Checklist for carrying out
the recommendations Ensure that the program is implemented
daily for at least 30 minutes in small, homo-
Recommendation 1.  Screen for reading geneous groups of three to six students.
problems and monitor progress
Provide training and ongoing support
Districts should establish procedures for the teachers and interventionists (reading
for—and provide training for—schools to coaches, Title I personnel, or paraeducators)
screen English learners for reading prob- who provide the small-group instruction.
lems. The same measures and assessment
approaches can be used with English learn- Training for teachers and other school
ers and native English speakers. personnel who provide the small-group inter-
ventions should also focus on how to deliver
Depending on resources, districts should instruction effectively, independent of the
consider collecting progress monitoring data particular program emphasized. It is impor-
more than three times a year for English tant that this training include the use of the
learners at risk for reading problems. The specific program materials the teachers will
severity of the problem should dictate how use during the school year. But the training
often progress is monitored—weekly or bi- should also explicitly emphasize that these
weekly for students at high risk of reading instructional techniques can be used in other
problems. programs and across other subject areas.

Data from screening and progress moni- Recommendation 3.  Provide extensive
toring assessments should be used to make and varied vocabulary instruction
decisions about the instructional support
English learners need to learn to read. Adopt an evidence-based approach to
vocabulary instruction.
Schools with performance benchmarks
in reading in the early grades can use the Develop districtwide lists of essential
same standards for English learners and for words for vocabulary instruction. These words
native English speakers to make adjustments should be drawn from the core reading pro-
in instruction when progress is not suffi- gram and from the textbooks used in key
cient. It is the opinion of the panel that content areas, such as science and history.
schools should not consider below-grade-
level performance in reading as “normal” or Vocabulary instruction for English learn-
something that will resolve itself when oral ers should also emphasize the acquisition of
language proficiency in English improves. meanings of everyday words that native
speakers know and that are not necessarily
Provide training on how teachers are to part of the academic curriculum.
use formative assessment data to guide
instruction. Recommendation 4.  Develop academic
Recommendation 2.  Provide intensive
small-group reading interventions Adopt a plan that focuses on ways and
means to help teachers understand that in-
Use an intervention program with stu- struction to English learners must include
dents who enter the first grade with weak time devoted to development of academic
reading and prereading skills, or with older English. Daily academic English instruction
el em ent a r y stu d ent s w i t h r e a din g should also be integrated into the core
problems. curriculum.
Checklist for carrying out the recommendations

Recommendation 5.  Schedule regular

Teach academic English in the earliest peer-assisted learning opportunities
Develop plans that encourage teachers
Provide teachers with appropriate pro- to schedule about 90 minutes a week with
fessional development to help them learn activities in reading and language arts that
how to teach academic English. entail students working in structured pair
Consider asking teachers to devote a
specific block (or blocks) of time each day to Also consider the use of partnering for
building English learners’ academic English. English language development instruction.

Recommendation 1. These measures meet the standards of the
Screen for reading American Psychological Association for
valid screening instruments.14
problems and
monitor progress For students in kindergarten and grade 1.
The early screening measures for kinder-
Conduct formative assessments with garten and the first grade fit into three
English learners using English language categories:
measures of phonological processing,
letter knowledge, and word and text • Measures of phonological awareness—
such as segmenting the phonemes in a
reading. Use these data to identify
word, sound blending, and rhyming—
English learners who require additional
are useful in both kindergarten and
instructional support and to monitor first grade.15
their reading progress over time.
• Measures of familiarity with the alpha-
Level of evidence: Strong bet and the alphabetic principle, espe-
cially measures of speed and accuracy
This recommendation is based on a large in letter naming and phonological re-
number of studies that used reading assess- coding, are useful in both kindergarten
ment measures with English learners. and first grade.16

Brief summary of evidence to • Measures of reading single words and

support this recommendation knowledge of basic phonics rules are
useful in first grade.17 Toward the mid-
Twenty-one studies demonstrated that dle and end of the first grade, and in
three types of measures—phonological the next few grades, measures of read-
processing, letter and alphabetic knowl- ing connected text accurately and flu-
edge, and reading of word lists or connected ently are useful.18
text—are valid means of determining which
English learners are likely to benefit from For students in grades 2 to 5. Three stud-
typical classroom reading instruction and ies have demonstrated that oral ­reading
which children will require extra support fluency measures are valid screening
(see appendix 1 for details).13 The primary measures for English learners and are
purpose of these measures is to determine positively associated with performance
whether interventions are necessary to
increase the rate of reading achievement.
14.  American Educational Research Association,
American Psychological Association, & National
13.  Arab-Moghaddam & Sénéchal (2001); Baker Council on Measurement in Education (1999).
(2006); Baker, Gersten, Haager, & Dingle (2006);
15.  Chiappe, Siegel, & Wade-­Woolley (2002); Geva
Baker & Good (1995); Chiappe, Siegel, & Gottardo
et al. (2000); Lafrance & Gottardo (2005); Lesaux
(2002); Chiappe, Siegel, & Wade-­Woolley (2002);
& Siegel, (2003); Limbos & Geva (2001); Manis et
Dominguez de Ramirez & Shapiro (2006); Geva
al. (2004).
& Yaghoub-Zadeh (2006); Geva et al. (2000);
Lafrance & Gottardo (2005); Leafstedt, Richards, 16.  Chiappe, Siegel, & Wade-­Woolley (2002); Geva
& Gerber (2004); Lesaux & Siegel (2003); Limbos et al. (2000); Lesaux & Siegel (2003); Limbos & Geva
(2006); Limbos & Geva (2001); Manis, Lindsey, (2001); Manis et al. (2004); Swanson et al. (2004).
& Bailey (2004); Quiroga, Lemos-Britton, Mosta-
17.  Limbos & Geva (2001); Swanson et al.
fapour, Abbott, & Berninger (2002); Swanson,
Sáez, & Gerber (2004); Verhoeven (1990, 2000);
Wang & Geva (2003); Wiley & Deno (2005). 18.  Baker & Good (1995).

1. Screen for reading problems and monitor progress

on comprehensive standardized reading learning to read in English,21 thus limiting

tests. Oral reading fluency is emerging as the utility of early screening measures.
a valid indicator of reading progress over The common practice was to wait until
time for English learners.19 English learners reached a reasonable
level of oral English proficiency before as-
These criterion-related validity studies are sessing them on measures of beginning
particularly important because another reading. In fact, oral language measures
set of studies has investigated whether of syntax, listening comprehension, and
English learners can attain rates of read- oral vocabulary do not predict who is
ing growth comparable with those of their likely to struggle with learning to read.22
monolingual peers. These studies have Yet research has consistently found that
demonstrated that English learners can early reading measures administered in
learn to read in English at the same rate English are an excellent means for screen-
as their peers in the primary grades (K– ing English learners, even those who know
2).20 Much of this evidence comes from re- little English.23
search in Canada and from schools provid-
ing intensive and systematic instruction It is very important to assess phonological
for all children, supplementary instruction processing, alphabet knowledge, phonics,
for those falling behind, and instruction in and word reading skills. These measures,
settings where growth in oral proficiency whether administered at the middle or
is supported by both peer and teacher- end of kindergarten (or at the beginning
student interactions. Evidence on reading of the first grade) have been shown to ac-
interventions for English learners in the curately predict later reading performance
United States is the focus of Recommen- in all areas: word reading,24 oral reading
dation 2. fluency,25 and reading comprehension.26
So, it is essential to administer some type
How to carry out the of screening to provide evidence-based be-
recommendation ginning reading interventions to students
in the primary grades.
1. Districts should establish procedures for—
and provide training for—schools to screen In no way do these findings suggest that
English learners for reading problems. The oral language proficiency and comprehen-
same measures and assessment approaches sion are unimportant in the early grades.
can be used with English learners and native These language abilities are critical for
English speakers.
21.  Fitzgerald (1995); Krashen (1985).
Research shows that early reading mea-
22.  Bialystok & Herman (1999); Geva, Yaghoub-
sures, administered in English, can be
­Zadeh, & Schuster (2000); Limbos & Geva (2001).
used to screen English learners for read-
ing problems. This finding is important 23.  Chiappe & Siegel (1999); Chiappe, Siegel, &
Wade-­Woolley (2002); Lesaux & Siegel (2003); Lim-
because until recently it was widely be-
bos & Geva, (2001).
lieved that an absence of oral proficiency
in English prevented English learners from 24.  Chiappe, Siegel, & Wade-Wooley (2002); Geva
et al. (2000); Lesaux & Siegel (2003); Limbos &
Geva (2001); Manis et al. (2004); Swanson et al.
19.  Baker & Good (1995); Dominguez de Ramirez
& Shapiro (2006); Wiley & Deno (2005). 25.  Geva & Yaghoub-Zadeh (2006); Lesaux & Sie-
gel (2003).
20.  Chiappe & Siegel (1999); Chiappe, Siegel, &
Wade-­Woolley (2002); Lesaux & Siegel (2003); Lim- 26.  Chiappe, Glaeser, & Ferko (2007); Lesaux,
bos & Geva (2001). Lipka, & Siegel (2006); Lesaux & Siegel (2003).

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1. Screen for reading problems and monitor progress

long-term success in school.27 We expand beginning of kindergarten can provide a

on this point in Recommendation 4, by dis- general sense of students’ early literacy
cussing the importance of directly teach- skills, but these scores should not be used
ing academic English. The assessment as an indication of how well students are
findings point to effective ways to screen likely to respond to instruction.
English learners for reading problems and
to determine whether they are making 4. Schools with performance benchmarks in
sufficient progress in foundational areas reading in the early grades can use the same
of early reading. standards for English learners and for native
English speakers to make adjustments in in-
2. Depending on resources, districts should struction when progress is insufficient. It is
consider collecting progress monitoring data the opinion of the panel that schools should
more than three times a year for English not consider below-grade-level performance
learners at risk for reading problems. The in reading as “normal” or something that will
severity of the problem should dictate how resolve itself when oral language proficiency
often progress is monitored—weekly or bi- in English improves.
weekly for students at high risk of reading
problems.28 Using the same standards for successful
reading performance with English learn-
3. Data from screening and progress moni- ers and native English speakers may mean
toring assessments should be used to make that a higher percentage of English learn-
decisions about the instructional support ers will require more intensive reading in-
English learners need to learn to read. struction to reach the benchmarks, but we
believe that this early emphasis on strong
Data from formative assessments should reading instruction will be helpful in the
be used to modify (and intensify) the read- long run. Providing intensive early read-
ing and English language development (or ing instruction for English learners does
ESL) instruction a child receives. These not imply they have a reading disability or
interventions should be closely aligned they are not able to learn to read as well
with the core reading program. Possible as other students. It means that while they
interventions are described in Recom- are learning a new language and learning
mendation 2. to read in that language simultaneously,
they face challenges other students do not
Caveat: Measures administered at the be- face. The instruction they receive should
ginning of kindergarten will tend to over- reflect the nature of this challenge.
identify students as “at risk.”29 A better
indication of how students will respond A score on a screening measure indicat-
to school instruction comes from perfor- ing that an English learner may be at risk
mance scores from the middle and end for reading difficulties does not mean the
of kindergarten. These scores should be child has a reading disability. Being at risk
used to identify students requiring seri- means that the English learner needs extra
ous instructional support. Scores from the instructional support to learn to read. This
support might simply entail additional
time on English letter names and letter
27.  Miller, Heilmann, Nockerts, Iglesias, Fabi-
sounds. In other cases additional support
ano, et al. (2006); Proctor, Carlo, August, & Snow
might entail intensive instruction in pho-
nological awareness or reading fluency.
28.  Baker & Good (1995); Dominguez de Ramirez Additional diagnostic assessments can
& Shapiro (2006).
be administered to determine what areas
29.  Baker (2006). require instructional attention.
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1. Screen for reading problems and monitor progress

Unless districts have considerable re- intensive instruction in foundational areas of

sources and expertise, they should not beginning reading.
try to develop the formative assessment
materials on their own. Several screen- There is no evidence to support the po-
ing and progress monitoring materials sition that early reading problems expe-
that have been developed and tested with rienced by English learners will resolve
native-English-speaking students are ap- themselves once oral language skills in
propriate to use with English learners. In- English are established.30 Districts should
formation about formative assessments develop and disseminate materials ex-
can be found from a number of sources, plaining that using English oral language
including the Web and commercial devel- proficiency is as accurate as flipping a coin
opers. Please note that the authors of this to decide which English learners are likely
guide did not conduct a comprehensive re- to have difficulty learning how to read.
view of available assessments (such a large
undertaking was beyond the scope of this To demonstrate that phonological, letter
project), and individual schools and dis- knowledge, and word reading measures
tricts should be careful when selecting as- are effective screening measures, princi-
sessments to use. It is important to select pals and reading coaches can look at data
assessments that are reliable and valid. from their own schools and see the links
between scores on these measures in kin-
5. Provide training on how teachers are to dergarten and the first grade and later
use formative assessment data to guide scores on state reading assessments.
2. Some teachers may feel that it is unfair to
The primary purpose of the formative test a child in a language that she or he does
assessment data is to determine which not understand.
students are at risk (or not making suffi-
cient progress) and to increase the inten- Although this is true in many areas, it is
sity of reading instruction systematically not true for tasks involving phonological
for those students. We recommend that processing, as long as the child under-
school-based teams of teachers be trained stands the nature of the task.31 If students
to examine formative assessment data to possess phonemic awareness of a word
identify which English learners are at risk such as cake or fan, even without know-
and to determine what instructional ad- ing the meaning they should be able to tell
justments will increase reading progress. the examiner the first, middle, and last
These teams can be for one grade or across sounds in the word. Phonological aware-
grades. We believe that the reading coach, ness is an auditory skill that greatly helps
in schools that have one, should play a key students with reading development, and it
role on these teams. Although principals transfers across languages. That is, if stu-
should also play an important leadership dents learn the structure of sounds in one
role, it may be difficult for them to attend language, this knowledge will help them
all meetings or be extensively involved. identify individual sounds in a second lan-
guage without being taught explicitly what
Possible roadblocks and solutions those individual sounds are. It is possible

1. Some teachers believe that reading prob-

lems may resolve themselves once English 30.  August & Hakuta (1997); August & Shanahan
learners develop proficiency in oral Eng- (2006); Geva et al. (2000).
lish. So, they are hesitant to refer these stu- 31.  Cisero & Royer (1995); Gottardo (2002); Hsia
dents for additional assistance or to provide (1992); Mumtaz & Humphreys (2001).

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1. Screen for reading problems and monitor progress

to demonstrate this to teachers by having quickly or well children learn the forma-
them pull apart the sounds in words from tive assessment task when they are given
an unfamiliar language, such as Russian or explicit instruction in how to complete
Arabic. Reading coaches can demonstrate the task.
that once a student knows how to identify
the beginning, ending, or middle sound of 3. Some teachers may feel that native lan-
a word, knowing the meaning of a word is guage assessments are more valid than
irrelevant in being able to reproduce the English language measures for this group
sound. of students.

Teachers should be clear that, for pho- Formative early reading assessments in
nological processing tasks to be valid, English are valid for English learners.32
English learners have to understand the If district and state policies permit test-
task, but this is different from knowing ing a child in her or his native language,
word meanings. For an assessment to be it is possible to get a richer picture of her
valid the examiner must clearly explain decoding skills or familiarity with the
the nature of the task and the child must alphabet. But this is not necessary for
understand what she or he is being asked phonological awareness because it easily
to do. If possible, adults who are fluent in transfers across languages. Students who
the child’s native language can be hired have this awareness in their native lan-
and trained to administer assessments. guage will be able to demonstrate it on an
But good training is essential. When ap- English language assessment as long as
propriate, the examiner can explain or they understand the task.33 In other words,
clarify the task in the language the child even students who are limited in English
understands best. For districts with many will be able to demonstrate knowledge of
native languages and few professional ed- phonological awareness and decoding in
ucators fluent in each native language, it English.
is possible to make CDs of instruction in
the appropriate native languages. 4. Districts should anticipate that schools will
have a tendency to view data collection as
Make sure at least two or three practice the terminal goal of conducting formative as-
items are provided before formal admin- sessments, especially early in the process.
istration, when the task is modeled for the
child and corrective feedback is provided. It is important to remind school personnel
This will give all children (especially Eng- that data collection is just one step in the
lish learners) the opportunity to under- process. The goal of collecting formative
stand what the task requires of them. An assessment data is to identify students
important consideration for all assess- who are not making adequate progress
ments is to follow the testing guidelines and to increase the intensity of instruction
and administration protocols provided for these students. In a system where the
with the assessment. It is acceptable to performance of all children is assessed
provide practice examples or explanations multiple times a year, it is easy to become
in the student’s native language outside consumed by ways of organizing, analyz-
the testing situation. During the testing, ing, and presenting data and to lose sight
however, it is essential that all assessment
directions and protocols be followed. Re- 32.  Chiappe, Siegel, & Wade-­Woolley (2002); Geva
member, the purpose of the assessment et al. (2000); Limbos (2006); Manis et al. (2004);
is to determine whether children are pho- Townsend, Lee, & Chiappe (2006).
nologically aware or know the letters of 33.  Cisero & Royer (1995); Gottardo (2002);
the alphabet. It is not to determine how Quiroga et al. (2002).

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1. Screen for reading problems and monitor progress

of the primary purpose of data collection: tensive instruction than the district might
to determine which students need extra normally provide in both reading and lan-
support and which do not. guage development.

5. In districts that have the same early read- 6. Teachers may focus too much on what
ing goals and standards for English learners is tested—phonemic skills, decoding abil-
and non-English learners, it is likely that the ity, and oral reading fluency—and ne-
current performance of many English learn- glect instruction in comprehension and
ers will be below these standards. vocabulary.

Although the average performance of Eng- In monitoring student progress in phono-

lish learners may be lower than that of logical processing, phonics, and reading
non-English learners, there is no reason to fluency, instruction in the development
assume that English learners cannot make of comprehension and higher order think-
the reading progress necessary to reach ing skills may be overlooked. But these
high standards of performance.34 This skills should not be neglected. Instruc-
progress will require providing more in- tion in comprehension and higher order
skills should receive attention in the ear-
34.  Chiappe & Siegel (2006); Chiappe, Siegel, liest phases of reading development. The
& Wade-­Woolley (2002); Lesaux & Siegel (2003); challenge for schools will be to maintain a
Geva et al. (2000); Limbos & Geva (2001); Verho- strong instructional focus on both higher
even (1990, 2000). and lower order skills.

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2. Provide Intensive Small-Group Reading Interventions

Recommendation 2. • Enhanced Proactive Reading.36

Provide intensive • Read Well.37
small-group reading
interventions • SRA Reading Mastery/SRA Corrective

Provide focused, intensive small-group The participants in these research studies

interventions for English learners were English learners in grades 1–5 with
determined to be at risk for reading serious reading problems (reading at least
problems. Although the amount of one year below grade level or scoring in the
lowest quartile on standardized tests). Read-
time in small-group instruction and
ing achievement was assessed on a wide
the intensity of this instruction should
range of measures, including word reading,
reflect the degree of risk, determined comprehension, and vocabulary. The What
by reading assessment data and Works Clearinghouse found that all three
other indicators, the interventions curricula demonstrated potentially posi-
should include the five core reading tive effects on reading achievement. The
elements (phonological awareness, designation potentially positive refers to an
phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary, effect supported by at least one study but
and comprehension). Explicit, direct not enough studies to support the Clearing-
house’s highest evaluation of positive.
instruction should be the primary
means of instructional delivery.
An important finding was that in two of
the four studies the interventions demon-
Level of evidence: Strong strated lasting effects on reading perfor-
mance. In investigating the longitudinal
This recommendation is based on four effects of Enhanced Proactive Reading,
high-quality randomized controlled trials positive achievement outcomes were main-
at various sites with different interven- tained when students who received the in-
tions that share core characteristics in tervention in the first grade were assessed
design and content. at the end of the second grade.39 Students
in the first grade intervention group read
Brief summary of evidence to at higher levels than students in the con-
support this recommendation trol group one year after the intervention
ended. For the SRA program the positive
In the past several years four high-quality reading effect was maintained two years
randomized controlled trials have been after the intervention ended.40
conducted on reading interventions for
struggling English learners. These stud- The programs used in these studies had
ies appear as Intervention Reports on the many characteristics in common. They
What Works Clearinghouse website.35 Ap-
pendix 1 provides technical details on the
methodology used in these studies, the 36.  Vaughn, Cirino, et al. (2006); Vaughn, Mathes,
et al. (2006).
key findings, and statistical significance
levels. These interventions used the fol- 37.  Denton et al. (2004).
lowing three programs: 38.  Gunn et al. (2002).

39.  Cirino et al. (2007); Gunn et al. (2002).

35.  For further information on the What Works
Clearinghouse, visit 40.  Gunn et al. (2002).

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2. Provide Intensive Small-Group Reading Interventions

formed a central aspect of daily reading 2. Ensure that the program is implemented
instruction and took between 30 and 50 daily for at least 30 minutes in small, homo-
minutes to implement per day. In each geneous groups of three to six students.
study program implementation involved
intensive small-group instruction follow- Students make gains in reading when
ing the principles of direct and explicit in- they have daily instruction in small ho-
struction in the core areas of reading. mogeneous groups based on reading
skill and receive explicit, clear, direct
How to carry out the instruction.43So, there is no compelling
recommendation reason why all students in the group need
to be English learners. In fact, we think
1. Use an intervention program with students there could be advantages to groups that
who enter the first grade with weak reading include native English speakers and Eng-
and prereading skills, or with older elemen- lish learners because native English speak-
tary students with reading problems.41 ers can provide models of more advanced
English language usage. But to ensure that
Because there are many similarities be- students can accelerate their learning,
tween the three programs assessed here, students who are making solid progress
we conclude that other programs that fol- based on ongoing assessments should be
low the same principles of direct and ex- regrouped (for example, move students
plicit instruction to teach core reading el- making rapid progress to higher perform-
ements in small groups are likely to have ing groups).44
the same beneficial effects. The major in-
structional principles that characterize the 3. Provide training and ongoing support
three programs are: for the teachers and interventionists (read-
ing coaches, Title I personnel, or para-
• Multiple opportunities for students to educators) who provide the small-group
respond to questions. instruction.45
• Multiple opportunities for students to
practice reading both words and sen- Each of the four research studies that
tences, either in a small group or with produced a positive impact on reading
a peer. achievement involved extensive training
• Clear feedback from the teacher when of the teachers and interventionists. This
students make errors. training is most effective when all person-
• Explicit instruction in all areas of read- nel who work with English learners par-
ing, including explicit comprehension ticipate together in the same professional
instruction and explicit vocabulary development activities.46
instruction. Sufficient coverage of five
areas—phonological awareness, pho-
nics, reading fluency, vocabulary, and 43.  Denton et al. (2004); Gunn et al. (2002);
Vaughn, Cirino, et al. (2006); Vaughn, Mathes,
­comprehension—should be a key cri-
et al. (2006).
terion in selecting an intervention pro-
gram for use in the school district.42 44.  Vaughn, Linan-Thompson, & Hickman-Davis

41.  Denton, Anthony, Parker, & Hasbrouck 45.  In two of the four intervention studies, in-
(2004); Gunn, Smolkowski, Biglan, & Black (2002); structional assistants were trained to provide the
Vaughn, Cirino, et al. (2006); Vaughn, Mathes, instruction. Gunn et al. (2002); Vaughn, Cirino,
et al. (2006). et al. (2006); Vaughn, Mathes, et al. (2006); Cirino
et al. (2007).
42.  August & Siegel (2006); Quiroga et al. (2002);
Shanahan & Beck (2006). 46.  Haager & Windmueller (2001).

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2. Provide Intensive Small-Group Reading Interventions

One key aspect of these interventions is Possible roadblocks and solutions

pacing. It is particularly important that
the teachers and interventionists receive 1. Teachers may be uncomfortable identifying
training in how to teach these programs at students for additional reading instruction if
an appropriate pace. This critical aspect of their English language skills are low.48
instruction is frequently overlooked. When
it is missing from instruction, it is easy for English language proficiency is not a good
children to become bored or to lose focus, gauge of how well English learners can
which can lead to behavior problems. respond to additional reading instruction
(see Recommendation 1). In addition to
T he t h r e e inter vent ion pr og r a m s helping with the development of critical
­studied—and others like them—contain reading skills, extra instructional time
highly engaging activities of short du- devoted to vocabulary, reading compre-
ration. The Panel believes that teachers hension, and listening comprehension will
should implement the activities, whatever help directly with the development of Eng-
their focus, as outlined in the teacher man- lish language proficiency.
uals and training materials.
2. Students already are pulled out of class for
4. Training for teachers and other school other services (such as speech, English lan-
personnel who provide the small-group guage development, or English as a second
interventions should also focus on how to language). Pulling students out for additional
deliver instruction effectively, independent reading instruction makes their instructional
of the particular program emphasized. It is day too fragmented.
important that this training include the use
of the specific program materials the teach- A fragmented instructional day is a legiti-
ers will use during the school year. But the mate concern (and not just for English learn-
training should also explicitly emphasize ers). But the Panel believes that reading de-
that these instructional techniques can be velopment is too important to withhold any
used in other programs and across other opportunity for small-group instruction.
subject areas.47 Reducing fragmented instruction must in-
volve the effective coordination of services
Examples of these techniques include in- for English learners, who frequently receive
structional pacing, providing feedback additional services in multiple areas and
to students, including error corrections, from multiple funding sources.
modeling, and providing wait time for
student responses. For many teachers this 3. Students will miss valuable instructional
fast-paced interactive instruction will be time in other areas.
unfamiliar, and coaching support in the
classroom will be critical for them to be Although students will miss some instruc-
effective. This training and coaching in the tion in other areas while they are receiving
classroom should be provided by “master” additional small-group reading instruc-
teachers with experience in the specific tion, learning to read is critical to all other
program. learning demands. So, time spent ensuring
that students acquire strong reading skills
will pay off in the long run. Evidence for

47.  Vaughn, Cirino, et al. (2006); Vaughn, Mathes,

et al. (2006). Gunn et al. (2002). 48.  Franklin (1986); Limbos & Geva (2001).

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2. Provide Intensive Small-Group Reading Interventions

this claim can be found in the sustained if barriers to time and scheduling are to
effects of intervention studies.49 be overcome.50 The key is training and col-
laboration among all personnel who pro-
4. Arranging a building-level or grade-level vide instruction to English learners. This
schedule that allows for additional small- requires a shared focus and commitment.
group instruction is a complex process. The benefits of having a pullout program
Individual teachers may feel that they do for interventions are that students can
not have the time or resources to provide be homogeneously grouped, receive ad-
additional small-group instruction to these ditional time on task, and be regrouped
students. regularly as needed to maximize learning
Different professionals can provide small-
group reading interventions, and schools
will have to consider the options seriously 50.  In the intervention studies, teachers and in-
structional assistants were trained to provide
49.  Gunn et al. (2002); Cirino et al. (2007). instruction.

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3. Provide Extensive and Varied Vocabulary Instruction

Recommendation 3. Research shows that English learners need

Provide extensive and to learn many words to catch up with their
native-English-speaking peers’ word knowl-
varied vocabulary edge.55 Clearly, not all of the words they
instruction need to learn to make up this gap can be
taught through explicit vocabulary instruc-
tion. Our recommendation thus integrates
Provide high-quality vocabulary procedures from studies on explicit vocab-
instruction throughout the day. Teach ulary instruction with English learners,56
essential content words in depth. In extensive research with native English
addition, use instructional time to speakers,57 and expert opinion in establish-
ing a comprehensive framework of vocabu-
address the meanings of common
lary instruction for English learners.
words, phrases, and expressions not
yet learned. How to carry out the
Level of evidence: Strong
Vocabulary instruction is essential in
This recommendation is based on three teaching English learners to read. It is
studies conducted specifically with Eng- rare that core reading programs include
lish learners. This recommendation is also adequate guidelines for vocabulary in-
indirectly supported by a strong body of struction for English learners. So, dis-
research conducted with native English tricts need to provide teachers with tools
speakers. that will help them support vocabulary
Brief summary of evidence to
support this recommendation 1. Adopt an evidence-based approach to vo-
cabulary instruction.
Three intervention research studies evalu-
ated the effectiveness of explicit vocabulary The Panel believes that an evidence-based
instruction for English learners.51 They con- approach should require that teachers pro-
verge in showing that explicit and intensive vide daily explicit vocabulary instruction.
vocabulary instruction helps English learn- Evidence-based vocabulary instruction
ers understand what they read (see appen- should be a strong part of reading instruc-
dix 1 for details). One study, appearing on tion and an integral part of English lan-
the What Works Clearinghouse website,52 is guage development. Vocabulary instruc-
rated as demonstrating a potentially positive tion should also be emphasized in all other
effect on students’ English reading com- parts of the curriculum, including reading,
prehension.53 It suggests that intense and writing, science, history, and geography.
explicit vocabulary instruction enhances
reading comprehension. Two other studies Typically, the vocabulary instruction
support the impact of vocabulary instruc- supported by research studies is more
tion on reading comprehension.54 thorough and explicit than that usually

51.  Carlo et al. (2004); Perez (1981); Rousseau

55.  Umbel, Pearson, Fernandez, & Oller (1992);
et al. (1993).
Verhallen & Schoonen (1993).
52.  See
56.  Carlo et al. (2004); Perez (1981); Rousseau
53.  Carlo et al. (2004). et al. (1993).

54.  Perez (1981); Rousseau et al. (1993). 57.  NICHD (2000).

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3. Provide Extensive and Varied Vocabulary Instruction

provided in classrooms.58 Researchers able texts that provide evidence-based ap-

converge in noting that effective vocabu- proaches to vocabulary instruction. Activi-
lary instruction includes multiple expo- ties in these study groups should include a
sures to target words over several days good number of hands-on activities, such
and across reading, writing, and speaking as transforming textbook definitions into
opportunities. A small but consistent body “student-friendly” definitions, identifying
of intervention research suggests that Eng- crucial words in the texts students will
lish learners will benefit most from rich, read, and developing daily lesson plans for
intensive vocabulary instruction that em- intensive vocabulary instruction.65
phasizes “student-friendly” definitions,59
that engages students in the meaningful 2. Develop districtwide lists of essential words
use of word meanings in reading, writing, for vocabulary instruction. These words
speaking, and listening,60 and that pro- should be drawn from the core reading pro-
vides regular review.61 The goal of rich gram and from the textbooks used in key
vocabulary instruction is for students to content areas, such as science and history.
develop an understanding of word mean-
ings to the point where they can use these A major part of any vocabulary curricu-
and related words in their communication lum is specifying the words to be taught.
and as a basis for further learning.62 It is the Panel’s opinion that adopting a
districtwide core vocabulary list for Eng-
The core reading program used in the lish learners will help focus instruction on
classroom is a good place to begin choos- valuable words and reduce unnecessary
ing words for instruction and methods duplication. A core vocabulary list does
for teaching them. For English learners not prevent teachers or students from
additional words need to be identified adding to this list when problem words
for instructional attention, and teaching arise in the classroom—in fact, some dis-
procedures need to be much richer and tricts even build in space for the addition
more extensive than instruction usu- of such words.
ally recommended within core reading
programs.63 The lists currently identified in core read-
ing programs are inadequate for this pur-
Valuable for professional development, pose.66 They often fail to emphasize the
teacher study groups and lesson study words most critical for understanding a
groups can get teachers engaged in plan- story or most useful for the child’s lan-
ning effective vocabulary instruction.64 guage development. For example, many
These study groups can be guided by avail- vocabulary lists stress decoding issues
rather than meaning. Thus, to accomplish
58.  National Institute of Child Health and Human vocabulary instruction goals, districts
Development (NICHD) (2000). must develop their own lists and provide
access to these lists for their teachers.
59.  Carlo et al. (2004); Perez (1981).

60.  Carlo et al. (2004); Perez (1981); Rousseau, Words for instruction should be selected
Tam & Ramnarain (1993). carefully. Long lists of words cannot be
61.  Carlo et al. (2004); Perez (1981). taught in depth because rich vocabulary
instruction is time intensive. Only a hand-
62.  Gersten, Dimino, & Jayanthi (in press).
ful of words should be taught in intensive
63.  August, Carlo, Dressler, & Snow (2005); Bla-
chowicz, Fisher, Ogle, & Watts-Taffe (2006).
65.  Gersten et al. (2006).
64.  Gersten, Dimino, Jayanthi, Kim, & Santoro
(2006). 66.  Hiebert (2005).

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3. Provide Extensive and Varied Vocabulary Instruction

ways at any one time. Some authorities mon phrases and expressions, not just
recommend teaching only about eight to single words.
ten words per week this way, while others
suggest teaching two to three words per During reading instruction, teachers
day (but always with lots of future review can teach many of these common words
and extension).67 ­explicitly—in roughly the same way that
they teach content words, but much more
Reading coaches, teacher teams, curricula quickly. They can teach many words as
specialists, and summer workshops for they arise in the classroom, drawing at-
teachers can generate vocabulary lists for tention to the potentially confusing words
intensive instruction. A key is for teachers and phrases. District practice should en-
to have these lists as they teach reading, sure that these words are also taught
social studies, and science units, so they and reviewed during English language
know in advance which words to teach in development.
depth. Study groups and grade-level teams
can do this work. Possible roadblocks and solutions

3. Vocabulary instruction for English learn- 1. Teaching vocabulary effectively is difficult.

ers should also emphasize the acquisition Many teachers will struggle learning how to
of meanings of everyday words that native provide effective vocabulary instruction to
speakers know and that are not necessarily English learners.69
part of the academic curriculum.68
Concerted professional development and
The vocabulary gap between English learn- coaching will be necessary to ensure that
ers and native English speakers is substan- all teachers learn to provide effective vo-
tial because English learners do not know cabulary instruction to English learners.
many of the simpler words or conversa- Teacher study groups can be an excellent
tional words that native English speakers vehicle for work on vocabulary instruc-
acquire before they enter school or learn tion, giving teachers a way to share their
in school without explicit teaching. Many frustrations and jointly collaborate on so-
of these words are crucial for understand- lutions. Study groups can also be a way
ing text and other academic content. For to keep effective vocabulary instruction
example, English learners may not know in the forefront of instructional priorities.
such words as bank, take, sink, or can. They are especially valuable when led by
Textbook publishers assume that students vocabulary experts, who can provide clear
know these words and do not include suggestions about how teachers can con-
them as vocabulary targets. Nor do they tinue to move forward to provide effective
provide recommendations for how to ad- instruction in the classroom.
dress teaching these words should teach-
ers have students who do not know them. Coaching teachers in effective vocabulary
English learners can acquire these words instruction should have a strong in‑class-
easily if teachers provide them with brief room component. There are routines in
instruction during lessons. This instruc- good vocabulary instruction that teachers
tion can emphasize the meanings of com- can learn. For some teachers, these rou-
tines will be learned best through in-class-
room coaching, where coaches provide im-
mediate feedback and demonstrations.
67.  Beck, Perfetti, & McKeown (1982); Biemiller

68.  August et al. (2005). 69.  Baker et al. (2006); Gersten et al. (2006).

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3. Provide Extensive and Varied Vocabulary Instruction

2. Some teachers may incorrectly assume knowledge of the primary language. If

that English learners know a concept and the linguistic transfer involves a simple
the word for that concept in their primary concept or a one-to-one correspondence
language—when, in fact, they do not. This is between the student’s primary language
particularly true for technical terms encoun- (each language has an identifiable word
tered in science, geography, and history. If for the concept), teachers may be able to
students do not know the concept in their help students even when these teachers
primary language, the Panel suggests teach- know very little of the primary language.
ing the word directly in English. But if the concepts are difficult or there
is no clear word for the concept in the
Caveat: For teachers to help English student’s native language, teachers will
learners develop vocabulary knowledge need more extensive knowledge of the
by making connections to a student’s primary language to be able to help the
primary language, teachers need some student.

( 22 )
Recommendation 4. is that English learners require consider-
Develop academic able explicit and deliberate instruction to
learn the features of the type of formal
English English used in the schools and in aca-
demic discourse.73 This consensus applies
to the importance of teaching academic
Ensure that the development of English from the earliest grades.74
formal or academic English is a key
instructional goal for English learners, How to carry out the
beginning in the primary grades. recommendation
Provide curricula and supplemental
1. Adopt a plan that focuses on ways and
curricula to accompany core reading
means to help teachers understand that in-
and mathematics series to support this struction to English learners must include
goal. Accompany with relevant training time devoted to development of academic
and professional development. English. Daily academic English instruc-
tion should also be integrated into the core
Level of evidence: Low curriculum.
(primarily expert opinion)
Academic English is the language of the
Because there is little empirical research on classroom, of academic disciplines (sci-
the topic and primarily just expert opinion, ence, history, literary analysis) of texts
the level of evidence is low. Two studies re-
viewed by the What Works Clearinghouse70 Goldenberg (2006); Meltzer & Haman (2005);
demonstrate that focused interventions in ­Scarcella (2003); Schleppegrell (2001, 2004); Snow
two relatively narrow areas of academic & Fillmore (2000).
English (quality of oral narrative and syn- 73.  At this stage, the reader may be a bit confused.
tax) are potentially effective.71 That is, In Recommendation 1 (Formative Assessments to
evidence suggests that they lead to better Screen for Reading Problems and Monitor Prog-
outcomes in highly specific areas of formal, ress), we noted that studies consistently find that
academic English. But because the studies oral English language proficiency is a weak pre-
address very selective aspects of academic dictor of how quickly a child will learn to read in
English. Yet, in Recommendation 4 we argue for
English and only indirectly address class-
the importance of intensive work on the develop-
room instruction, we cannot conclude that
ment of academic English, including oral language
the studies affirm the effectiveness of in- proficiency, beginning in kindergarten.
struction of academic English at this time. A subtle but important distinction needs to
be made to explain the seeming contradiction.
Brief summary of evidence to The fact that oral English language proficiency is
support this recommendation not a valid predictor of who needs extra support
in learning to read in the early grades in no way
indicates that oral English language proficiency
Despite the paucity of experimental research,
is not important for the development of reading
the strong consensus of expert opinion72
in the long term. In fact, experts consistently con-
sider building oral proficiency in the features of
academic English to be critical. In Recommenda-
70.  See
tion 1, we were addressing screening measures
71.  Scientific Learning Corporation (2004); for learning how to read (the act of reading and
Uchikoshi (2005). understanding the relatively straightforward
books suitable for students in the early grades).
72.  August & Hakuta (1997); August & Shana-
han (2006); Bailey (2006); Callahan (2005); Fran- 74.  Echevarria, Vogt, & Short (2004); Francis, Ri-
cis, Rivera et al. (2006); Gennesee et al. (2006); vera, et al. (2006).

( 23 )
4. Develop Academic English

and literature, and of extended, reasoned language development instruction dis-

discourse. It is more abstract and decon- persed throughout the day.79
textualized than conversational English.
Those who are knowledgeable about ac- Many teachers may be unaware of the fea-
ademic English know, for example, that tures of academic English80 and thus do not
some words used in everyday conver- instruct students in the features required
sation, such as fault, power, or force, to succeed in school.81 The Panel feels that
take on special meanings when used in the best way to promote the development
science. of academic English is to use a curriculum
with a scope and sequence aimed at build-
Most scholars believe that instruction in ac- ing academic English. Unfortunately, the
ademic English—done early, consistently, Panel knows of no existing curricular ma-
and simultaneously across content areas— terials that have solid empirical support for
can make a difference in English learners’ this purpose. That is why it is important to
ability to understand the core curriculum select published materials carefully and to
and that its importance increases as chil- devote considerable thought and planning
dren enter the upper grades.75 But even to how these materials will be used effec-
in the primary grades, instructional time tively in the classroom.
should focus on the explicit instruction of
academic English.76 Recent correlational It is also unfortunate that few resources
research supports this position.77 provide guidance to districts in teaching
academic English to English learners. Some
English learners do not need to master preliminary frameworks and guidelines—
conversational oral English before they developed by Feldman and Kinsella,82
are taught the features of academic Eng- Girard,83 Dutro and Moran,84Snow and
lish.78 In reading, knowledge of academic Fillmore,85 Diaz-Rico and Weed,86 and
English helps students gain perspective ­Scarcella87—list topics to address when
on what they read, understand relation- focusing on academic English, such as
ships, and follow logical lines of thought. adverbial forms, conditional sentences,
In writing, knowledge of academic English prepositions, words that express relation-
helps students develop topic sentences, ships. But these are not designed for regu-
provide smooth transitions between ideas, lar use by teachers in the classroom or as
and edit their writing effectively. Read- an instructional manual.
ing, discussing, and writing about texts
needs to be a central part of the English
79.  August & Hakuta (1997); Callahan (2005)
Francis, Rivera, et al. (2006); Genesee et al. (2006);
Goldenberg (2006); Meltzer & Haman (2005); Scar-
75.  August & Hakuta (1997); Bailey (2006); Fran-
cella (2003); Snow & Fillmore (2000).
cis, Rivera, et al. (2006); Genesee, Lindholm-
Leary, Saunders, & Christian (2006); Goldenberg 80.  Fillmore & Snow (2002).
(2006); Scarcella (2003); Schleppegrell (2001,
81.  Michaels & Cook-Gumperz (1979); Saunders
2004); Snow & Fillmore (2000).
et al. (2006); Schleppegrell (2004).
76.  August & Hakuta (1997); Bailey (2006); Cal-
82.  Feldman & Kinsella (2005).
lahan (2005); Diaz-Rico & Weed (2002); Francis,
Rivera, et al. (2006); Genesee et al. (2006); Gold- 83.  Girard (2005).
enberg (2006); Meltzer & Haman (2005); Scar-
84.  Dutro & Moran (2002).
cella (2003); Schleppegrell (2001, 2004); Snow &
Fillmore (2000). 85.  Snow & Fillmore (2000).
77.  Proctor et al. (2005). 86.  Diaz-Rico & Weed (2002).
78.  Francis, Rivera, et al. (2006). 87.  Scarcella (2003).

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4. Develop Academic English

Teachers will need extensive professional Note: For students entering school, atten-
development and support in using cur- tion in the first year of instruction must
riculum materials effectively to teach aca- also be devoted to informal, social lan-
demic English.88 guage. For example, newcomers (English
learners who have recently arrived in the
2. Teach academic English in the earliest United States) benefit greatly from immedi-
grades. ate instruction in social language (Hi! What’s
up?) and survival language (Help! Fire!).94
Instruction focused on academic English
should not wait until students are able to 3. Provide teachers with appropriate profes-
read and write in English. Before English sional development to help them learn how
learners are reading, the development to teach academic English.
of age-appropriate academic English—­
morphology, syntax, vocabulary—can be In the opinion of the Panel, professional
accelerated orally through planned and development needs to be ongoing and to
deliberate daily instruction.89 entail a specific and manageable number
of key features and principles. Basic fea-
Focused instruction in academic English can tures of English morphology, syntax, and
also build on students’ work with text. For discourse need to be addressed carefully
example, when English learners read expos- and gradually so as not to overwhelm
itory text that includes academic language, teachers.
teachers should discuss the text and the
language in structured ways.90 Instruction Professional development should also in-
should also focus on teaching English learn- clude extensive practical activities, such
ers to use specific features of academic lan- as analyzing texts used by students for
guage related to tense agreement, plurals, academic English instruction, determining
and proper use of adjectives and adverbs.91 features of language that students need to
Students need practice in using these fea- complete specific oral and written assign-
tures in the context of meaningful commu- ments, and designing “student-friendly”
nication (both oral and written).92 They also explanations. Professional development
must learn to use language accurately in a should also give teachers opportunities
range of situations—to tell stories, describe to practice teaching academic language
events, define words and concepts, explain with feedback.
problems, retell actions, summarize con-
tent, and question intentions.93 4. Consider asking teachers to devote a spe-
cific block (or blocks) of time each day to
88.  August & Hakuta (1997); Francis, Rivera, et al. building English learners’ academic English.
(2006); Meltzer & Haman (2005); Scarcella (2003);
Snow & Fillmore (2000).
94.  Bailey (2006); Gibbons (2002); Schleppegrell
89.  Francis, Rivera, et al. (2006); Saunders, Foor- (2004). Note that English learners who enter
man, & Carlson (2006); Schleppegrell (2004); Fill- school in the primary grades without the abil-
more (2004); Scarcella (2003). ity to use English in such ways can learn grade-
appropriate academic English as well as their
90.  Francis, Rivera, et  al. (2006); Gibbons
English-speaking peers if they are given access
to the same rigorous curriculum early and ap-
91.  Goldenberg (2006). propriate instructional support and interven-
tions, delivered daily in blocks of time dedicated
92.  Celce-Murcia (2002); Fillmore & Snow
to the development of academic language. When
students receive high-quality instruction in aca-
93.  Francis, Rivera, et al. (2006); Fillmore & Snow demic English early in their education, we see
(2000). gains in their test scores later.

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4. Develop Academic English

Experts agree that English learners require communicate in informal English. For this
time each day when the primary instruc- reason, it might be a good idea for admin-
tional goal is developing academic English istrators to structure specific blocks of
(as opposed to mastering the academic time each day to ensure its instruction. For
content).95 A recent observational research example, in kindergarten, the instruction
study found that students’ growth in Eng- of academic English can be routinely incor-
lish language proficiency was much higher porated into the instruction of storytelling
in classrooms where a separate block of and vocabulary development at specific
time was devoted to ESL or English lan- times each day. As Saunders, Foorman,
guage development.96 So, in addition to and Carlson97 have shown, providing spe-
the better integration of teaching academic cific blocks of instruction in English lan-
English in the context of academic content guage development leads to gains in mea-
such as reading or mathematics, the Panel sures of oral language proficiency. In later
also suggests that there be specific times grades, specific blocks of time dedicated
during the day when the primary instruc- to the development of academic English
tional focus is on English language develop- can be scheduled, for example, in reading
ment and that some of the time be devoted and writing instruction and in the instruc-
to academic English. We are aware that this tion of vocabulary in all subject matter.
recommendation extrapolates from only Scheduling regular blocks of time for the
one study and that this study looked at all instruction of academic English should
English language development instruction, not only guarantee an increased focus
not only academic English instruction. So, on academic English in the classroom. It
this should be considered as merely a rec- should also make teachers more diligent
ommendation based on our opinion. in structuring instructional activities that
require the use of academic English and in
We believe that devoting specific blocks of monitoring their students’ development of
time to academic English has three distinct academic English.
advantages. First, it increases the time Eng-
lish learners have to learn the language. Possible roadblocks and solutions
Second, instruction spaced throughout the
day provides better opportunities for deep 1. Some educators may want to cushion their
processing and retention. Third, during English learners, believing that academic
English language development time, the English is too hard for them to develop or
focus is clearly on language. When teach- that the expectations are too demanding.
ers try to merge English language develop-
ment with academics, it becomes easy to Many teaching approaches still advocate
lose track of the dual objectives and focus giving English learners highly simplified,
more on teaching reading or mathemat- informal texts that are easy to read but not
ics or science than on teaching academic challenging. The problem with regularly
English. The obvious exception is writing giving English learners a diet of familiar
instruction, a natural fit with teaching aca- reading material is that the academic texts
demic English. of assessments and most content areas re-
main unfamiliar. Informal, narrative texts
It is easy to overlook academic English tend to be familiar, but reading these texts
and to allow teachers and students to does not lead to proficiency in academic
English. In academic writing crammed
with facts, the content is often unfamiliar
95.  Francis, Rivera, et al. (2006); Gersten & Baker to English learners.
(2000); Fillmore & Snow (2000).

96.  Saunders et al. (2006). 97.  Saunders et al. (2006).

( 26 )
4. Develop Academic English

The focus on developing academic English Even when English learners know word
can come after a challenging text has been meanings, they may be uncertain about
read and discussed, so that the vocabulary how to use new words appropriately. As
and meaning are clear. Then the teacher knowledge deepens, words have to be used
can come back to the story and focus on with the appropriate number (goose, geese),
the aspects of language that may be prob- tense (is, are, was), and word form (fun,
lematic for English learners (sentence con- funnier, funny). Systematic instruction in
struction, word usage, prepositions) in the usage and language conventions needs to
familiar text. Language-focused activities be a core feature of English language de-
will have more meaning for English learn- velopment, and many of the words used
ers if they already have a general under- should be the same words students are
standing of the material in the text. working with during their reading lesson.
Teachers should model appropriate syn-
2. There may not be enough time in the in- tax, word order, and tense agreement and
structional day to provide English learners have students practice these skills with
with sufficient instruction on the features of new vocabulary words. Teachers should be
academic English. careful and explicit about pointing out or
modeling appropriate use, as students use
This problem is particularly relevant when new vocabulary in the context of sentences
English learners enter the upper grades that should, over time, become more com-
with little knowledge of academic English, plex and grammatically correct.
limited reading ability, and large educa-
tional gaps. Teachers need to be aware that Note that instruction in the proper usage of
many features of academic English can words is very different from correction of
and should be included during the block of any and all errors a student makes in word
time devoted to reading instruction. Virtu- usage. In the Panel’s view, error correction
ally all students would benefit from activi- needs to be focused on the instructional
ties that teach them how to build complex target of the lesson. If the instructional
sentences through sentence combining— focus of the vocabulary lesson is on word
and how to use words such as however and forms such as success, successful, and
but to build an argument. Thus, a partial succeed, teachers should correct errors in
solution to the time problem is to include word forms but ignore other errors. For in-
daily academic English instruction as part stance, in the learner’s sentence, “The boy
of the core reading instruction delivered is very succeed on mathematics,” teachers
to all students, including English learners should point out that the correct word is
and native English speakers. successful but should not focus on the in-
correct use of the word on. In restating
3. Many teachers fail to link vocabulary in- the sentence, the teacher might emphasize
struction to instruction on proper language correct usage by saying “Yes, the boy is
usage. very successful at mathematics.”

( 27 )
Recommendation 5. tive groups of four to six students.100 Al-
Schedule regular though less evidence supports coopera-
tive groups than pairs of students work-
peer‑assisted learning ing together, the guidance here is relevant
opportunities for districts wanting to implement some
type of cooperative learning structure in
their schools.
Ensure that teachers of English learners
devote approximately 90 minutes a Of the five studies, two were reviewed by
week to instructional activities in which the What Works Clearinghouse and rated
pairs of students at different ability as providing potentially positive effects
on reading achievement.101 One of the
levels or different English language
two met the Clearinghouse evidence stan-
proficiencies work together on
dards102 and the other met the standards
academic tasks in a structured fashion. with reservations.103
These activities should practice and
extend material already taught.98 Partner work is an opportunity for stu-
dents to practice and extend what the
Level of evidence: Strong teacher has taught during regular instruc-
tion. Partner work is excellent for tasks in
This recommendation is based on several which correct and incorrect responses can
high-quality experiments and quasi exper- be clearly determined (word and text read-
iments with English learners. In addition, ing and phonological awareness activities,
many peer-assisted studies also have been such as identifying sounds in words).
conducted with native-English-speaking
students, and the results have consistently However, evidence also demonstrates that
supported the positive impact of peer tu- partner activities can build skills for tasks
toring on student learning outcomes. in which correct and incorrect responses
are harder to determine, such as reading
Brief summary of evidence to comprehension and other tasks that re-
support this recommendation quire student explanations. In three of the
five studies, students worked in pairs to
Three high-quality experiments and quasi practice, consolidate, and extend preread-
experiments have evaluated the effective- ing, decoding, comprehension, and spell-
ness of English learners working in pairs ing skills. In each of the studies student
in a structured fashion several times a pairs, with different abilities in either read-
week.99 These studies spanned virtually ing or English language proficiency, were
all of the elementary grade levels. All provided with clear instructional activities
these studies demonstrated positive im- and taught procedures for working effec-
pacts on reading achievement for students tively with peers. Teachers used guides
at various ability levels. Two additional that included prompt cards and activities
studies provide evidence of the positive for students.
impact of student activities in coopera-

100.  Calderón et al. (1998); Klingner & Vaughn

98.  90 minutes is the median amount of time per (1996).
week in the research.
101.  Calderón et al. (1998); Saenz et al. (2005).
99.  Calhoon, Al Otaiba, Cihak, King, & Avalos
102.  Saenz et al. (2005).
(2006); McMaster et al. (in press); Saenz, Fuchs,
& Fuchs (2005). 103.  Calderón et al. (1998).

( 28 )
5. Schedule Regular Peer-Assisted Learning Opportunities

How to carry out the success of peer-assisted learning in other

recommendation areas of language arts. During the part
of the day reserved for English language
1. Develop plans that encourage teachers development, for example, peers would
to schedule about 90 minutes a week with work together on reading connected text
activities in reading and language arts that to each other and then discussing the text
entail students working in structured pair in a structured way. Students could read
activities. short passages of text and then practice
summarizing the text for a few minutes,
Kindergarteners can learn peer-assisted using specific summarization strategies.
learning techniques if the routines are rea- Or, after reading the text, they could an-
sonably simple and taught in an explicit swer questions, generate “gist” statements,
fashion.104 Older elementary students can or use another comprehension procedure,
learn fairly sophisticated strategies for such as “prediction relay,” thinking ahead
providing peers with feedback on compre- in the text and predicting what might hap-
hension and vocabulary. Students can also pen based on the story content to that
assist each other in learning or clarifying point.
the meanings of words in English.105
Possible roadblocks and solutions
The Panel recommends that the focus of
the pair activities be tied to areas that 1. Some teachers may feel that the added
emerge as key targets from a district’s time required by English learners may
evaluation data. These could include oral take instructional time away from other
reading fluency, vocabulary development, students.
syntax, and comprehension strategies.
A benefit of peer-assisted instruction is
Districts should provide professional de- that all students can participate. So, teach-
velopment for teachers setting up peer- ers do not have to plan additional activi-
assistance learning systems. Professional ties for separate groups of students in the
development should be scheduled during class. This partner work gives teachers a
the early part of the school year, so that way to structure learning opportunities
teachers can practice immediately with that address some of the unique learning
their own students. Training need not be needs of English learners. It also gives
lengthy and could be provided by read- them a way to address the learning needs
ing coaches. Coaches should also observe of other students in the class. Students
teachers as they get started and help teach- who have learning disabilities or who are
ers during the difficult early phases. low performers, as well as average and
above-average students, will benefit from
2. Also consider the use of partnering for Eng- working with a partner in a structured way
lish language development instruction.106 if the activities are organized and carried
out appropriately.
The Panel members know that there was
no experimental research on this topic, Peer-assisted learning is not, however, a
but we still consider this to be a promis- substitute for teacher-led instruction. It
ing practice, based on the documented is an evidence-based approach intended
to replace some of the independent seat-
104.  McMaster, Kung, Han, & Cao (in press). work or round-robin reading that students
do, for example, when the intention is to
105.  Calderón, Hertz-Lazavowitz, & Slavin (1998).
provide practice and extended learning
106.  Klingner & Vaughn (1996). opportunities for students.
( 29 )
5. Schedule Regular Peer-Assisted Learning Opportunities

2. Teachers may be concerned about the time 3. Teachers may be concerned that this takes
it takes to teach students the routines. time away from instruction.

Once students have learned peer-assisted Most teachers replace some of the indepen-
instructional routines, such as how to re- dent seatwork or round-robin reading with
spond to errors, the format can be used in peer-assisted learning. Again, peer-assisted
a number of different content areas across learning is not a substitute for instruction.
grade levels. The use of peer-­assisted in- It is an opportunity for English learners to
struction across grade levels provides a practice and work with skills and concepts
consistent and familiar structure for prac- they are learning. It allows students to re-
ticing specific content. ceive feedback as they practice.

( 30 )
Appendix. Example of a criterion‑related
validity study
Technical information
on the studies In a recent study by Geva and Yaghoub-
Zadeh (2006), second-grade English learn-
ers (Cantonese, Punjabi, Tamil, and Portu-
Recommendation 1. Screen guese) and native English speakers were
for reading problems and assessed in English on cognitive and lin-
monitor progress guistic measures (nonverbal intelligence,
rapid letter naming, phonological aware-
ness, vocabulary, and syntactic knowl-
Level of evidence: Strong edge) and reading measures (pseudoword
reading, word recognition, and word and
The Panel rated the level of evidence as text reading fluency).
Strong. It considered 21 studies that ad-
dressed the criterion-related validity of Phonological awareness, rapid letter nam-
assessment measures to screen English ing, and word recognition accounted for
learners in reading and to monitor their the bulk of the variance on word and
reading progress over time. The body text reading fluency. These measures ac-
of research on early screening measures counted for 60 percent and 58 percent of
meets the standards of the American Psy- the variance on measures of fluency of
chological Association for valid screen- word and text reading, respectively, after
ing instruments (American Educational oral language measures (vocabulary and
Research Association, American Psycho- syntactic knowledge) were entered into
logical Association, & National Council on the hierarchical regression models. The
Measurement in Education, 1999). pattern of relationships among the mea-
sures was similar for the English learners
Eighteen reviewed studies conducted and native English speakers. Oral language
screening and criterion assessments with measures, although entered first into the
English learners at different points in time regression models, accounted for just 11
on measures of phonological awareness, percent and 12 percent of the variance on
letter knowledge, and word and text read- measures of word and text reading fluency,
ing. Although the number of studies in this respectively. In other studies the predic-
category was large, we noted that in many tive validity for oral language measures is
of these studies the samples of English even smaller for kindergarten and the first
learners were not adequately representa- grade. We thus assert that oral language
tive of the population of English learners proficiency is a poor predictor of subse-
in the United States. So, we have some con- quent reading performance.
cern about the generalizability.
Studies that systematically
However, the fact that so many studies monitored student progress
have replicated these findings supports over time in grades 1 to 5
this recommendation. In addition, the set
of screening measures demonstrates mod- Four studies also investigated the regu-
erate predictive validity for English learn- lar monitoring of student progress over
ers from homes speaking a variety of lan- time (Baker & Good, 1995; Dominguez de
guages: Spanish, Punjabi, Tamil, Mandarin, Ramirez & Shapiro, 2006; Leafstedt, Rich-
Cantonese, Farsi, Hmong, and Portuguese, ards, & Gerber, 2004; Wiley & Deno, 2005),
among others. with three of four investigating the use of

( 31 )
Appendix. Technical information on the studies

oral reading fluency. Two of these focused can develop equivalency with native Eng-
specifically on the technical issues of mon- lish speakers in reading comprehension
itoring progress regularly. They indicated (Chiappe, Glaeser, & Ferko, 2007; Lesaux,
that oral reading fluency was sensitive to Lipka, & Siegel, 2006; Lesaux & Siegel,
growth over periods as short as two weeks 2003). We conclude that it is reasonable
when used in the early grades (Baker & to expect that English learners can learn
Good, 1995) and when used with students to read at rates similar to those of native
up to grade 5 (Dominguez de Ramirez speakers if they are provided with high-
& Shapiro, 2006). In two of the studies quality reading instruction.
(Baker & Good, 2005; Wiley & Deno, 2005)
oral reading fluency predicted the perfor-
mance of English learners on comprehen- Recommendation 2.
sive reading tests such as the SAT-10 and Provide intensive small-
state-developed reading assessments. group reading interventions
Comparable expectations
for English learners Level of evidence: Strong

An interesting and important sidelight of The Panel rated the level of evidence as
the validity studies is the corresponding Strong. We located four high-quality, ran-
set of descriptive statistics. Many of the domized controlled trials demonstrating
studies demonstrate that English learn- support for the practice of explicit, sys-
ers can perform at comparable levels of tematic small-group instruction. Each of
proficiency to native English speakers on the studies met the standards of the What
measures assessing phonological aware- Works Clearinghouse (WWC). Conducted at
ness, word reading, and reading connected various sites by different research groups,
text fluently. These studies have been they targeted different interventions that
conducted with English learners in the share core characteristics in design and
primary grades who receive their instruc- content.
tion exclusively in the general education
classroom alongside their native-English- For sample sizes, there were 91 first grad-
­speaking peers. It is in these contexts ers in one of the studies of Enhanced Pro-
that they develop comparable word read- active Reading, 41 first graders in the other,
ing, word attack, and spelling skills in 33 students in grades 2–5 for Read Well,
kindergarten through the second grade and 17 students in kindergarten through
(Chiappe & Siegel, 1999; Chiappe, Siegel, third grade for SRA Reading Mastery. All
& Wade-Woolley, 2002; Lesaux & Siegel, the students were English learners. In
2003; Limbos & Geva, 2001; Verhoeven, three of the studies, all were students
1990, 2000). reading at or below the first-grade level.

The comparable development of early Effect sizes were consistently positive for
reading skills for English learners appears reading but inconsistent for English lan-
to extend beyond accuracy in word rec- guage development. Only the study of En-
ognition and spelling. There is evidence hanced Proactive Reading (Vaughn, Mathes,
that English learners can develop equiva- et al., 2006) demonstrated a statistically
lent degrees of fluency in reading both significant effect in reading. Yet all the stud-
word lists and connected text by the sec- ies demonstrated substantially important
ond grade (Geva & Yaghoub-Zadeh, 2006; effect sizes for reading: 0.89 and 0.25 for
Lesaux & Siegel, 2003). There is also some Enhanced Proactive Reading, 0.76 for SRA
limited evidence that English learners Reading Mastery, and 0.25 for Read Well.
( 32 )
Appendix. Technical information on the studies

Despite the different names and some dif- passage 1, 0.32; DIBELS passage 2, 0.27),
ferences in lesson content and sequenc- and word reading efficiency (0.41). Impacts
ing, all three interventions have many on letter-word identification and passage
features in common: fast-paced, intensive, comprehension were not considered im-
highly interactive small-group instruction; portant (0.13 and 0.06, respectively).
frequent review; frequent opportunities
for students to respond; heavy emphasis In the second Enhanced Proactive Reading
on systematic teaching of phonological study (Vaughn, Mathes, et al., 2006), which
awareness and phonics principles; use of met the WWC standards with reservations
decodable text; and emphasis on fluency (because of randomization problems),
as well as comprehension. there was a statistically significant and
substantively important impact on reading
Example of a study of intensive overall (0.89), on decoding (word attack,
small-group reading intervention 1.53), and on comprehension (1.32).

In one Enhanced Proactive Reading study Together, these two studies, plus the other
(Vaughn, Cirino, et al., 2006), 91 English studies in this set, showed potentially pos-
learners below the 25th percentile in Eng- itive effects in reading achievement and
lish reading from four schools were ran- no discernible effects in English language
domly assigned (at the student level) to development.
the intervention or comparison condition.
The intervention involved daily small-
group reading instruction focusing on Recommendation 3.
five areas: phonological awareness, letter Provide extensive and varied
knowledge, word recognition, fluency, and vocabulary instruction
comprehension. There were 120 50-minute
lessons. Teachers modeled new content,
and the lessons were fast paced. Students’ Level of evidence: Strong
responses were primarily choral, with
some individual responses. Students in The Panel rated the level of evidence as
the comparison group received the same Strong. We reviewed three studies that
core reading instruction as students in the directly investigated the impact of vo-
intervention condition, and many students cabulary instruction with English learn-
also received supplemental instruction, ers. A randomized controlled trial (Carlo
although it was different from the supple- et al., 2004) reviewed by the What Works
mental instruction provided to English Clearing­house and was found to meet the
learners in the intervention condition. WWC evidentiary standards with reserva-
tions (because of differential attrition).
The What Works Clearing­house concluded Perez (1981) also conducted a random-
that the effects for reading achievement ized controlled trial, and Rousseau, Tam,
were not statistically significant (largely and Ramnarain (1993) conducted a single-
because of analysis at the classroom level, subject study. All three studies showed
which decreased power), but five of the improvements in reading comprehension,
seven effect sizes, as well as the average ef- and in the one study that assessed vocab-
fect size, were large enough to be substan- ulary specifically (Carlo et al., 2004), the
tively important. These effects were aver- effect was positive.
age for overall reading achievement (effect
size = 0.27) and for specific measures of The Panel also considered that many stud-
letter-sound knowledge (0.26), decoding ies of vocabulary instruction for native
(word attack, 0.42), reading fluency (DIBELS English speakers have found that explicit
( 33 )
Appendix. Technical information on the studies

word meaning instruction improves read- on both reading achievement and English
ing achievement (see Beck & McKeown, language development. But because of the
1991; Blachowicz & Fisher, 2000; Blacho- small sample size (with the classroom as
wicz, Fisher, Ogle, & Watts-Taffe, 2006; the unit of analysis), the gains in these
Mezynski, 1983; National Institute of Child domains were not statistically significant.
Health and Human Development, 2000; The effect size in reading comprehen-
Stahl & Fairbanks, 1986). We also reviewed sion was 0.50, and the average effect size
intervention research conducted with Eng- across five specific measures of English
lish learners. language development was 0.43. Both ef-
fect sizes were considered substantively
Example of a vocabulary important.
intervention study
Perez (1981) also found that a vocabulary
In the study of the Vocabulary Improve- intervention had a positive impact on read-
ment Program (Carlo et al., 2004), 16 class- ing achievement with third-grade English
rooms were randomly assigned to treat- learners. In a multiple baseline study,
ment (n = 10) and control (n = 6) conditions. Rousseau et al. (1993) found that discus-
These classrooms included 142 fifth-grade sion of key words prior to text reading
English learners and 112 English-only stu- in combination with teacher reading of
dents. The intervention lasted 15 weeks. At the text prior to students’ reading of the
the beginning of each week, 10 to 12 target text on their own resulted in a positive
words were introduced, and instruction impact on both oral reading and reading
was provided four days per week for 30 to comprehension.
45 minutes. Each fifth week was a review
of the previous four weeks. Reading interventions and
vocabulary development
On Mondays English learners previewed
a reading assignment in their native lan- These three studies are the only direct tests
guage. On Tuesdays intervention activities of the impact of vocabulary instruction on
began, with English learners reading the the reading development of English learn-
assignment in English and defining the tar- ers. But it is important that many complex
get vocabulary words in large-group dis- interventions that have improved the read-
cussion with the teacher. On Wednesdays ing achievement of English learners also
the English learners completed cloze activ- include explicit teaching of vocabulary.
ities (fill in the blanks) in small groups (het- Various studies reviewed positively by the
erogeneous groups based on language). On What Works Clearinghouse make it clear
Thursdays students completed word asso- that these more complex interventions
ciation, synonym/antonym, and semantic have been successful in increasing English
feature analysis activities. On Fridays spe- learners’ reading and language achieve-
cific intervention activities varied, but the ment, but these studies were not designed
central objective was to promote general to allow the specific effects of vocabulary
word analysis skills, rather than to focus teaching to be calculated. These success-
specifically on learning the target words. ful programs include Read Well (Denton,
Anthony, Parker, & Hasbrouck, 2004); In-
In the control classrooms, English learners structional Conversations (Saunders, 1999;
received instruction normally included in Saunders & Goldenberg, 1999); Enhanced
the school curriculum. Proactive Reading (Vaughn, Cirino, et al.,
2006); and SRA Reading Mastery (Gunn,
In the WWC analysis the intervention was Biglan, Smolkowski, & Ary, 2000; Gunn,
found to have a potentially positive impact Smolkowski, Biglan, & Black, 2002). In
( 34 )
Appendix. Technical information on the studies

all these programs, potentially confus- book-based program emphasizing pho-

ing or difficult words for English learners nics and reading). Arthur had an overall
were drawn from reading texts and given positive impact on measures of English
additional instructional attention, often language development (effect size = 0.29)
using procedures similar to those noted in and specifically on overall quality of the
the explicit vocabulary studies reviewed students’ retelling a story (0.44); these ef-
above. fects were not statistically significant. See
Dickinson and Tabors (2001) and Snow,
Tabors, Nicholson, and Kurland (1995) for
Recommendation 4. discussions of the role of narratives in
Develop academic English emerging literacy and the link of narra-
tives to the subsequent academic success
of monolingual children.
Level of evidence: Low
The study of FastForWord (Scientific Learn-
The Panel rated the level of evidence as ing Corporation, 2004), a computer-based
Low. Two studies (Scientific Learning Cor- program conducted with 81 English learn-
poration, 2004; Uchikoshi, 2005) demon- ers in kindergarten through the fifth grade,
strate that focused interventions in two assessed three aspects of comprehension
relatively narrow areas of academic Eng- of oral language that encompass three do-
lish (quality of oral narrative and syntax) mains: word classes and relations, gram-
are potentially effective. But because the matical morphemes, and elaborated sen-
studies address very selected aspects of tences. The effect size across these three
academic English and only indirectly ad- areas was 0.88 (statistically significant).
dress classroom instruction, we cannot
conclude at this time that the studies af- Example of a study of
firm the effectiveness of instruction in aca- academic English
demic English. Additional support is pro-
vided by a recent classroom observational The correlational study by Saunders, Foor-
study that correlates devotion of specific man, and Carlson (2006) supports the
blocks of time to English language devel- recommendation that student growth in
opment with enhanced outcomes. oral language is stronger in classes that
designate specific blocks of time for Eng-
The two randomized controlled studies lish language development. This observa-
pertaining to academic English (Scientific tional study was conducted in 85 kinder-
Learning Corporation, 2004; Uchikoshi, garten classrooms in 11 school districts in
2005) are described in greater depth on the two states with large populations of Eng-
What Works Clearinghouse website (www. lish learners. In 26 classrooms the entire Both were assessed as school day was in English. In the remain-
possessing high control for internal valid- ing 59 classrooms teachers used Spanish
ity; they were rated as meets evidence stan- for most of the day but spent some time
dards without reservations. on English language development instruc-
tion (also known as ESL or ESOL). The
In one randomized controlled trial (Uchiko- Woodcock Language Proficiency Battery—
shi, 2005), 108 Spanish-speaking English Revised: English and Spanish Forms (WLPB-
learners were assigned to watch either R; Woodcock, 1991; Woodcock & Muñoz-
54 half-hour episodes of Arthur (Arthur Sandoval, 1993) was used to measure oral
emphasizes stories with a plot, conflict, language development; word reading skills
and resolution) or the same number of were assessed with the word identifica-
episodes of Reading Between the Lions (a tion (Identificación de letras y palabras)
( 35 )
Appendix. Technical information on the studies

subtest from the WLPB-R. Students were Two studies were randomized controlled
assessed at the beginning and the end of trials, and two were high-quality quasi
the school year. experiments. The Saenz et al. study (ran-
domized controlled trial) met the WWC
Two findings are worth noting. First, evidence standards without reservations.
whether academic instruction was in Eng- Calhoon et al. was also a randomized
lish or Spanish, classrooms with a fixed controlled trial. The Calderón et al. quasi
block of time devoted to English language experiment met the WWC criteria with
development had greater proportions of reservations. McMaster et al. was a meth-
time during the school day devoted to oral odologically acceptable quasi experiment.
language development. Students in these Because a set of four studies across mul-
classes made significantly greater growth tiple sites conducted by multiple research
in both language and literacy outcomes teams reached consistent conclusions
than students in classes where English lan- about the positive academic impacts of
guage development was infused through- structured work in heterogeneous teams
out the day. So, it seems important for of two or four, we consider the evidential
teachers to have a block of time each day basis strong.
during which English language develop-
ment is the primary focus. The study by Klingner and Vaughn (1996)
used a weaker design (with threats to in-
Second, very little time was devoted to ternal validity). This study compared peer-
building academic English in any of the assisted learning (using groups of two)
various programs. On average, only 4.5 with reciprocal teaching (using groups of
percent of the time was devoted to vocabu- four). Both interventions seemed promis-
lary development and less than 2 percent ing, and impacts were roughly equivalent
of the time was spent on work on language for the two. But because the design did not
structures, such as grammar and syntax. include a control group, the study cannot
In other words, less than 10 percent of make strong claims. It does, however, pro-
the time was devoted to developing aca- vide additional evidence of the potential
demic English (see also Arreaga-Mayer & effectiveness of structured peer-assisted
­Perdomo-Rivera, 1996). learning.

Nature of the impacts

Recommendation 5. on student learning
Schedule regular peer-
assisted learning In the kindergarten (Saenz et al., 2005) and
first-grade (Calhoon et al., 2006) studies,
opportunities positive effects were found for peer-as-
sisted learning on letter-sound and word
Level of evidence: Strong attack measures, phoneme awareness,
and oral reading fluency. The effect sizes
The Panel rated the level of evidence as were substantively important. In grades
Strong. Three studies of English learners 3–6 the impact on reading comprehension
addressed peer-assisted learning (Calhoon, was significant.
Al Otaiba, Cihak, King, & Avalos, 2006; Mc-
Master, Kung, Han, & Cao, in press; Saenz, Example of a study on
Fuchs, & Fuchs, 2005) and two investigated peer‑assisted learning
the use of cooperative groups (Calderón,
Hertz-Lazarowitz, & Slavin, 1998; Klingner The Saenz et al. (2005) study provides
& Vaughn, 1996). a good example of how peer-assisted
( 36 )
Appendix. Technical information on the studies

learning works and how this research is with story retelling, summarizing text
frequently conducted. Twelve classroom (paragraph shrinking), and making pre-
teachers were randomly assigned to peer dictions (prediction relay). In these activi-
tutoring and control conditions. Within ties the stronger reader was the tutee first,
each classroom four groups of English and tutors were trained to respond with
learners were identified: two English learn- structured prompts when tutees were hav-
ers with learning disabilities, and three ing difficulty. Treatment fidelity was very
students per group in low, average, and high, above 90 percent in all areas.
high achieving groups, for a total of 11
students per classroom. Peer-assisted in- In this study, there was a positive impact
struction was conducted three times per on reading comprehension, as measured by
week in 35-minute sessions for 15 weeks. questions answered correctly. There was
Relatively strong readers were paired with no interaction with learner type, and the
relatively weak readers for the tutoring effect sizes were 1.03 for English learners
sessions, and pairs were rotated every with learning disabilities, and 0.86, 0.60,
three to four weeks. Each student assumed and 1.02, respectively for the low, average,
the role of tutor and tutee and engaged in and high achieving groups. These effect
three reading activities: partner reading sizes were substantively important.

( 37 )
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