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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Educational Outcomes and Opportunities for English Language Learners


There are several reasons why California needs to pay careful attention to the schooling of language minority students in their public schools. First, language minority students now constitute more than one-third of all students in California’s schools—a proportion that will grow even higher in the future. Second, English learners require a specialized curriculum and properly trained teachers to support their development of English literacy and to learn the rest of the required academic curriculum if they are to keep pace with their English-speaking peers. Third, the schooling of English learners is highly politicized—particularly concerning the use of native language instruction (or bilingual education) in developing native language literacy and initial academic content while learning English. Although the research evidence on developing English literacy in non-English speaking students is very sparse, prompting the federal government to initial a number of long-term research studies on the topic, there is a growing political movement in many states to promote English-only instruction, such as Proposition 227 that was passed by California voters in June 1998.

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