Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

"The Three Literacy Gaps and Title III of NCLB"

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

"The Three Literacy Gaps and Title III of NCLB"

Article excerpt

Abstract

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) attempts to ensure educational equity for all K-12 students. However, for the conceptual goals of NCLB to become reality, pre-service teacher training models must be modified to include a deeper understanding of individual differences and how these play out in classroom dynamics. The "Three Literacy Gaps" that hinder student learning must be understood by novice teachers: (1) the gap between the student and the text, including readability issues, background knowledge, experience, interest, motivation, language transfer, and tolerance for challenge; (2) the gap between the teacher and the student, including cultural and socioeconomic differences, language variables, perceptions, and expectations; and (3) the gap between the student and his peers, including cultural dynamics, family background, expectations, language, book access, learning rates, and literacy levels.

In particular, Title III of NCLB provides accountability for the progress of English Language Learners. However, without a deep understanding of the "Three Literacy Gaps" and appropriate bridgebuilding strategies that help--rather than hinder--learning, novice teachers and seasoned alike, will continue to orchestrate classroom environments that widen, rather than close achievement gaps on high-stakes assessments. The "Three Literacy Gaps" model infuses literature from reading, second language acquisition, learning theory, and multicultural dynamics.

Introduction

Nearly one out of three students in the United States will not graduate from high school. Students from the lowest socioeconomic status (SES) quartile are more than six times as likely to drop out than the highest SES quartile (Thornburgh, 2006). Most of California's newest immigrants and English Language Learners (ELLs) are in the lowest quartile. This article will focus on the specialized needs of ELLs in the context of literacy and No Child Left Behind (NCLB), bringing a multicultural perspective from having spent the majority of our careers focused on California's diverse needs where half of the K-12 population have a first language other than English.

The No Child Left Behind Act (2001) mandates educational equity for all K-12 students, including English Language Learners (ELLs) as described in Title III. In the United States we have over five million English Learners and 1.6 millions ELLs are in California (Aguila, 2006). In California, the Dean of San Diego State University described it this way, "We have an undeclared state of emergency ... almost one out of two African-American and Hispanic students drop out ... we [California] may be the fifth economy in the world, but our schools are failing" (Meno, 2006). For the conceptual goals of NCLB to become reality, educators must examine every possible venue for increased quality of learning in the United States' school system by increasing quality of teacher training, student services, and measuring learning outcomes. This article focuses on the needs of ELLs, presenting a theoretical teacher training model, "The Three Literacy Gaps," which illustrates the complex barriers that inhibit student learning in the classroom and bridge building strategies that promote literacy.

To help the goals of NCLB become reality for all students, pre-service teacher training models must be modified to include a deeper understanding of individual differences and how these play out in classroom dynamics, particularly in the area of reading comprehension and literacy in general (Infante, 1996; Petersen, 1996; Turbill, 1996). The "Three Literacy Gaps" that hinder student learning must be understood by novice teachers: (1) the gap between the student and the text, including readability issues, background knowledge, experience, interest, motivation, language transfer, and tolerance for challenge; (2) the gap between the teacher and the student, including perceptions and expectations, cultural and socioeconomic status, and language variables; and (3) the gap between the student and his peers, including cultural dynamics, family background, expectations, language, book access, learning rates, and literacy levels. …

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