Sunday, September 10, 2006

English Learners and academic success

While some English learners move quickly to English fluency and academic mastery at all grade levels, many do not. Most English learners make academic progress in the primary grades, but around fourth grade, when academic and cognitive demands require higher levels of comprehension and engagement with text, the patterns change. Many struggle to learn academic English and to access grade-level curriculum which is taught, in most cases, in a language they have not yet mastered. "Ensuring the Academic Success of English Learners," by Laurie Olsen draws on three decades of research on second language acquisition, bilingual brain development, effective programs, and "best practices" in instructional strategies. The essay details nine elements of a comprehensive system of schooling for English learners. They range from high-quality preschool to age-appropriate English language development, instructional materials, and valid assessments. She further suggests four policy goals needed to develop such a system, including investing in a qualified educator workforce, building a meaningful English Learner accountability system, and demonstrating new models of successful schools for English learners.
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