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Some Program Alternatives for English Language Learners

  • Author(s): (CREDE), Center for Research on Education, Diversity & Excellence
  • et al.
Abstract

With the increasing number of linguistically and culturally diverse students in K-12 classrooms, it is imperative that practitioners determine educational approaches that best serve these students. English language learners (ELLs) in particular face the dual challenge of mastering English and acquiring the academic skills and knowledge deemed essential for a sound and productive education. Researchers at CREDE have studied four programs that meet the diverse and complex needs of ELLs: (1) newcomer programs, (2) transitional bilingual education, (3) developmental bilingual education, and (4) two-way immersion. This brief will summarize these programs by highlighting specific features and conditions that will help practitioners determine which programs meet their needs, fulfill their goals, and match their resources.

When starting a new program or assessing the effectiveness of an existing one, it is important to consider common characteristics of all programs. Successful programs maintain ongoing and guided parental involvement and professional development for specialized and mainstream teachers. They promote proficiency in both first and second languages for academic purposes, and they use assessment methods linked to instructional objectives to inform instructional planning and delivery. Effective programs also encompass developmentally appropriate curriculum and high standards for language acquisition and academic achievement, as well as strong leadership among classroom, school, and district personnel. All programs implement sheltered instruction (SI), an approach that integrates language and content instruction. SI serves as a means for making grade-level academic content more accessible to ELLs while at the same time promoting their English language development. Academic subjects are taught using English as the medium of instruction. SI highlights key language features and incorporates special strategies to make the content meaningful and comprehensible to ELLs. In some cases, SI is used as a program option for educating ELLs. When looking at the unique characteristics of the following alternatives, educators should remember that there is no one best program. Rather, these different approaches are all successful if implemented well.

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