[lg policy] Advocates Call for New Policies to Improve Outcomes for ELLs in California

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jun 28 15:15:19 UTC 2012

Advocates Call for New Policies to Improve Outcomes for ELLs in Calif.
By Lesli A. Maxwell on June 27, 2012 9:00 AM

Advocates for the nation's largest group of English-language
learners—the 1.4 million such students in California—are urging state
policymakers and school district leaders to move away from narrow,
generalized instruction for ELLs and provide more tailored training to
teachers on how to work effectively with students who are still
learning the language, among other recommendations.

In a policy brief released in Sacramento yesterday, Californians
Together—a nonprofit coalition of parent and civil rights groups that
advocates for improving services for ELLs—outlined what it calls the
"four essential elements" necessary to change teacher training and
classroom practices in order to vastly improve the outcomes for
English-learners. The brief was written in collaboration with the
Center for Equity for English Learners at Loyola Marymount University
and the Center of Equity and Biliteracy Education Research at San
Diego State University.

The four essential elements, according to the brief:

• Rigorous and relevant instructional practices—this includes, among
other things, drawing on ELLs' prior knowledge and making strategic
use of student interactions in class to keep them engaged;
• Multiple measures for English-learner assessment—part of this
entails the use of assessments that can differentiate language
development from academic achievement;
• Assessing practices of teachers of English-learners—this includes
adopting wider use of classroom observation to help teachers identify
how to improve their practice; and
• Collaboration and professional development—central to this is giving
teachers time to think about their instructional practices and work
closely with colleagues to analyze students' assessment results and
adopt their practice accordingly.

The report goes on to make concrete policy recommendations for
California. One of them—the distribution of money and other resources
to ensure that ELLs are getting the materials they need, as well as
the right professional development for their teachers—seems almost
insurmountable right now given the unrelenting budget woes in
California. Another recommendation is that the four essential elements
outlined in the brief would be woven into teacher preparation,
credentialing, and ongoing professional development. The brief also
calls for "clear and coherent" state and local policies around
programs, curriculum, and assessment so that "all school reform
efforts should have a laser-like focus on addressing the language and
academic needs of English Learners." None of these will be easy.

But Californians Together has a track record when it comes to driving
change around ELLs and language policy. Last year, the group succeeded
in getting California lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown to approve a
state seal of biliteracy to high school graduates who demonstrate
fluency in English and another language. The group is also largely
responsible for bringing the long-overlooked issue of long-term ELLs
into the spotlight.

It's also important to point out that one of the brief's authors is
Karen Cadiero Kaplan, a San Diego State professor who is currently
serving as the top advisor on ELL issues to Tom Torlakson,
California's state schools chief. That connection should certainly
help draw Torlakson's attention to this matter. Who else will pay


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