Jill Youngren: We know that English learners are a growing population. English learners go through a similar process to acquire the English language, but not necessarily at the same rate. English language development instruction increases the instructional effectiveness for all learners. We hear that over and over again. What supports one group of students, also supports another. I really wanna emphasize that we have to be very intentional. We can’t just do best practice and assume it’s gonna meet the needs of our ELL students. We have to be intentional about it. Schools needs to make a conscious effort to teach ELD. English learners should have an opportunity to be grouped with mixed language abilities, as well as time to be with their like-speaking ability peers. ELD supports all learners, not just English learners. English language development instruction is a way to insure English learners have access to the curriculum. That’s really our goal. We wanna make sure that that high level rigor happens for all students.
Jill Youngren: Why ensure ELLs have equal access to the curriculum? On the slide are some facts about English language learners. They enter kindergarten with a gap in language and math. They fail high school exit exams while meeting all other graduation requirements. Graduate at lower rates than their peers. Are more likely to dorp out of school. This is where I really have passion, and I really wanna emphasize this, that educators have a moral imperative to be responsive to the educational needs. It isn’t enough to just teach English language or just teach content. We must do both.
Jill Youngren: As we look at varied background, it’s real important that we address what our English learners may be bringing to school and that we have to be conscious of. Schooling experiences differ among English learners. Some students may have limited or interrupted formal education. Some students have strong educational backgrounds in their first language but lack English proficiency. The schema may not match the culture for which the text was written, or the structure for our learning. English learner perspectives of how the majority of society accepts or rejects the culture and language they bring to the school are extremely, extremely important for their eventual success in the school. Being culturally responsive is essential to the growth and the development of language proficiencies.
Jill Youngren: It is critical to create a partnership with family and community, because it shows that you respect their culture. In addition, teachers must explain the process of how to learn to students. Too often, students are the last to know. For English learners, this is especially damaging. They need to understand that their feelings of vagueness and frustration are valid. At the same time, teachers should carefully prepare learners by setting up tasks that will prepare them to be successful for what they will be required to do. Most importantly, we must have high, high expectations for our English learners and believe that they can contribute to classroom instruction while creating a safe, risk-free learning environment.