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English Language Learners By Eric Hoopengardner
A Nation with Multiple Languages In the past 30 years, the foreign-born population of the U.S. has tripled, more than 14 million immigrants moved to the U.S. during the 1990s, and another 14 million are expected to arrive between 2000 and 2010. (NCTE p1) ELLs are a highly heterogeneous and complex group of students, with diverse gifts, educational needs, backgrounds, languages, and goals. (NCTE p1) ELL students may have a deep sense of their non-U.S. culture, a strong sense of multiple cultures, or identify only with U.S. culture. (NCTE p1) Some ELL students are stigmatized for the way they speak English; some are stigmatized for speaking a language other than English; some are stigmatized for speaking English. (NCTE p2) One thing is certain: there is no one profile for an ELL student, nor is one single response adequate to meet their educational goals and needs. ELL students are a diverse group that offers challenges and opportunities to U.S. education. (NCTE p2)
The Many Faces of ELL Learners ELLs are the fastest growing segment of the student population. Five States – California, Texas, New York, Florida and Illinois – currently account for 68% of ELL elementary school students. (buzz.org, p1) In recent years many ELL students and their families have begun to move into regions of the country that have not traditionally seen immigrant populations, principally in the heartland of the United States. (buzz.org, p1) ELL students are increasingly present in all U.S. states. Especially in California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois. According to journalist Roy Beck, in California it is necessary to construct a new classroom every hour of the day, 24 hours per day 365 days of the year to accommodate immigrant children. (Elbel, 2006) ELLs do not fit easily into simple categories; they comprise a very diverse group. ELLs have varied levels of language proficiency, socio-economic standing, expectations of schooling, content knowledge, and immigration status. ELLs sometimes struggle academically. http://buzz.edfunders.org/?p=46 Percent change in number of pre-k – 5th grade ELL students:1990-2000 Colorado 163% Kansas 87% Missouri 43% Nebraska 350% North Dakota 22% South Dakota 264% Wyoming 59% Kathleen Flynn & Jane Hill
Recent Policy Over the last 40 years, U.S English language education has been shaped by a variety of legal and legislative decisions. (1982) Amendments to Title VII allow for some native language maintenance, provide program funding for LEP students with special needs, support family English literacy programs, and emphasize importance of teacher training. (1994) Comprehensive educational reforms entail reconfiguration of Title VII programs. New provisions reinforce professional development programs, increased attention to language maintenance and foreign language instruction (1968)The Bilingual Education Act, Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1968: Establishes federal policy for bilingual education for economically disadvantaged language minority students English immersion or “sink-or-swim” policies are the dominant method of instruction of language minority students. 1920’s – 1960’s 1980’s 1970’s 1990’s 2000 & beyond (2001) No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB): The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, appropriates funds to states to improve the education of limited English proficient students by assisting children to learn English (1978)Amendments to Title VII emphasize the strictly transitional nature of native language instruction, expand eligibility to students who are limited English proficient (LEP), and permit enrollment of English-speaking students in bilingual programs. (1988) Amendments to Title VII include increased funding to state education agencies, expanded funding for “special alternative” a three-year limit on participation in most Title VII, and the creation of fellowship programs for professional training. (1964) Civil Rights Act: Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in the operation of all federally assisted programs. Something to think about has legislation helped ELLs or do we still follow the “sink or swim” policies of the early years. (Texas Education Agency Bilingual/ESL Unit, 2004)
Common Myths Children learn a second language quickly and easily. A variety of Socio-cultural factors affect language learning. ELL face challenges acclimating to new cultures and status that interfere with learning English. (NCTE, p3) Teaching ELLs means only focusing on vocabulary. Student need to learn forms and structures of academic language. Student need to understand relationships between forms and meaning. Students need opportunities to express complex meanings. (NCTE, p4) When an ELL student is able to speak English fluently, he or she has mastered it. Some teachers may assume that students who have good oral English need no further academic support. English is a difficult language and learning it is an on going process. Oral language should constantly be assessed. (NCTE, p4)
Research-Based Recommendations for ELL Instruction For Educators Present ELLs with challenging curricular content Set high expectations for ELLs. Use technology effectively. Recognize socio-cultural factors. Recognize the difference between ELLs and under-prepared students in higher education. For Schools and Policy Makers Delineate explicit expectations for ELLs. Provide research-based professional development for teachers of ELLs. Think about some of the strategies use in the video, would they work in your classroom? Attend to processes and consequences of assessment of ELLs. Avoid testing in English exclusively.
Forum Discussion Questions In your opinion, over the past 40 years has legislation done enough to create opportunities to support ELL learners. Why or Why not. How do you think the effective use of technology can help ELL learners in the classroom. What are some technologies that can be used in the classroom /or what are some you have worked with as a teacher.
Bibliography Flynn, K., & Hill, J. (2005). English language learners: A growing population. Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning, 1-12. Education’s next big concern–That not enough people seem concerned with. (2010, April 13). Retrieved September 18, 2011. From http://buzz.edfunders.org/?p=46. Chronology of federal and state law & policy impacting language minority students. (2004, August). Retrieved September 18, 2011. From http://www2.sfasu.edu/enlace/modules/Chronology%20of%20Federal%20Law%20Guiding%20ELL%20Policy%20and%20Practice%20from%20TEA.pdf. English language learners: A policy research brief from the National council of teacher of English. (2008). Retrieved September 18, 2011. From http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Resources/PolicyResearch/ELLResearchBrief.pdf.