[lg policy] Oregon: Language literacy in kindergarten important for success in learning English
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Fri Oct 23 14:55:03 UTC 2015
Language literacy in kindergarten important for success in learning
Oregon State University
CORVALLIS, Ore. - English learners are more likely to become proficient
English speakers if they enter kindergarten with a strong initial grasp of
academic language literacy, either in their primary language or in English,
a new analysis from Oregon State University has found.
"This study shows that building literacy skills, in English or the child's
native language, prior to kindergarten can be helpful," said Karen
Thompson, an assistant professor of cultural and linguistic diversity in
OSU's College of Education. "Having those academic language skills - the
kind of language used in school to retell a story or explain a math problem
- is likely going to set them on a path to success."
The new study, published recently in the journal *Educational Policy*, is
part of an emerging body of research examining the role that language
reclassification plays in a student's education.
For the study, Thompson reviewed nine years of student data from the Los
Angeles Unified School District to better understand how long it takes
students to develop English proficiency. The findings could provide new
insight as educators re-shape education policy around the language
reclassification process, Thompson said.
About one in five children in the United States speak a language other than
English at home, and about half of them are not yet considered proficient
in English. Students who do not speak English proficiently when they enter
school are considered English learners.
When English learners master the language, they are "reclassified" and no
longer receive specific services to support their language development.
Prior research has found that it takes roughly four to seven years for most
students to master a second language.
Students who do not master English in that typical window, generally by the
upper elementary grades, are less likely to ever do so. Those who do not
master the language and remain English learners tend to score lower on
academic tests and graduate high school at lower rates than their
native-English speaking peers.
About 25 percent of students do not master English after nine years in
school, Thompson found. Of those students, nearly a third are in special
education programs. The finding indicates that reclassification rules may
need to be adjusted for special education students, so there is a
reasonable and sensible plan for them to meet language requirements,
"If a special education student's language has developed to a point that is
comparable to an English speaking student with the same disability, let's
take that into account," Thompson said.
The research also showed boys, native Spanish speakers and students whose
parents had lower levels of education were less likely to be reclassified
than their peers. And reclassification varied dramatically based on a
child's initial language skills, in their native language and in English.
The findings highlight a pressing need for new curriculum and professional
development for teachers to help students, and English learners in
particular, to develop their academic language skills, Thompson said.
Under federal education policy, states must set, and try to meet, targets
to ensure that students are becoming proficient in English. There is no
uniform standard for determining proficiency and with transitions to new
assessments in many states, including Oregon, policymakers are in the midst
of changing the criteria for determining whether a student has become
Understanding how long English mastery actually takes, and factors that
influence it, can help states establish appropriate and realistic targets,
"These targets need to be grounded in what's possible," she said.
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