Magazine article Curriculum Review

Understanding English Language Learners

Magazine article Curriculum Review

Understanding English Language Learners

Article excerpt

English language learners (ELLs) are one of the fastest growing student populations in the United States, according to "Education Week." The National Center for Education Statistics found that in 2012 - 2013, 9.2 percent of public school students in the U.S. were English language learners. Numbers of ELLs are expected to increase in the future. This means that more schools will be responsible for educating more and more students who may not have a firm grasp on English.

ELLs will account for 40 percent of the school-age population in the United States by the year 2030, according to colorincolorado.org.

The National Center for Education Statistics says:

"Students who are English language learners (ELL) participate in appropriate programs of language assistance, such as English as a Second Language, High Intensity Language Training, and bilingual education to help ensure that they attain English proficiency, develop high levels of academic attainment in English, and meet the same academic content and academic achievement standards that all students are expected to meet."

By the Numbers

The Center for Education Statistics found that:

* Alaska, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington D.C. have 10% or more ELLs in their pubic school student populations

* California has the most ELLs at 22.8% of the public school population

* Urban cities (14% enrollment) tend to have more ELLs than suburban (8.9%) and rural (3.5%) areas

The National Education Association reports that:

* 75% of ELLs speak Spanish

* 66% come from low-income households

* ELLs are given reading and math tests in English before they are proficient in the language

* Only 29% of ELLs scored at or above the basic level in reading (versus 75% of the non-ELL population)

* Dropout rates for ELLs are excessively high

Clearly, the education system is not serving these students as well as it could be.

Council-for-learning-disabilities.org reports that:

* 5% of public school students have a learning disability

* 50% of those students have a language-based disability

Identifying a learning disability becomes more complex for ELLs because it can be tricky to determine which students struggle because of their proficiency in English versus which students are struggling because of a learning disability.

What is Typical for an ELL?

According to colorincolorado. org, the following are normal behaviors in children learning a new language:

* "Interference or transfer" from language one to language two because of differences in sentence structure

* For example, a native-Spanish speaker might say "this jacket is more smaller" because of syntax in Spanish

* A "silent period," where a child is focusing on listening and comprehension instead of speaking. This could last a few weeks to a year or more

* "Code-switching," or using both languages in one sentence or thought

* Language loss where the student loses fluency in their first language because they do not practice it enough

ELLs and Disabilities

Recently, the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, or NCEERA, released a report entitled "Identifying and supporting English learner students with learning disabilities: Key issues in the literature and state practice. …

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