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Open Access Publications from the University of California


The University of California Linguistic Minority Research Institute (UC LMRI) was established in 1984 in response to the California Legislature's request that the University of California's Office of the President (UCOP) pursue "...knowledge applicable to educational policy and practice in the area of language minority students' academic achievement and knowledge," including their access to the University of California and other institutions of higher education.

The UC LMRI was first established as a research project and then became a Multi-campus Research Unit (MRU) in 1992, with representatives from each of the UC campuses serving as its board. To carry out its mission, the UC LMRI funded research of UC faculty and graduate students; provided professional development for researchers, educators, and policymakers; and disseminated information to researchers, practitioners, and policymakers on educational issues affecting linguistic minorities as well as racial and ethnic minorities and immigrants for both California and the nation.

As a part of its dissemination activities it sponsored an annual research conference that drew participants from across the nation, and conducted regular policy seminars in the state capitol to inform policymakers on the latest research relevant to pending policy issues. The policy seminars became a notable fixture in the capitol. UC LMRI produced dozens of reports, several books, and was the catalyst for numerous journal articles during its existence. It was the “go to” research center on issues of English language learners for both researchers and practitioners nationwide. Some of the most consulted publications produced over the years are available here at the Civil Rights Project website.

The UC LMRI closed its doors in 2009 after 25 years of existence. In order to make its documents available, LMRI documents are housed here.

University of California Linguistic Minority Research Institute

There are 69 publications in this collection, published between 1997 and 2009.
Policy Reports (8)

The Feasibility of Developing a California Education Longitudinal Study

This paper explores the feasibility of collecting longitudinal survey data on students within California schools as a way of supplementing the information California currently collects on its students. Hopefully, this paper will be the start of a process that will lead to the institution of what we in this paper tentatively call the California Education Longitudinal Study (CELS). After demonstrating the feasibility of a CELS during a briefing with policymakers in Sacramento on April 27, 2001 (see Appendix B), my presumption is that California will either contract with other outside consultants familiar with data collection operations or use current state government staff to develop a full written design of CELS. This design should lead, in turn, to either an in- house data collection or a data collection by a survey research firm familiar with large-scale longitudinal surveys.

Review of the Research on Instruction of Limited English Proficient Students: A Report to the California Legislature

The following report was written at the request of the Latino Caucus of the California Legislature and was completed in April of 1997 as the debate surrounding Proposition 227 was getting underway. The impetus for the report was the concern of the caucus that much of the rhetoric in the press and on the street was that "bilingual education had failed." The Caucus asked the question, "Is there research evidence that bilingual education works?" Hence, the task that was put to us was "not" to provide an accounting of studies and essays on all sides of the issue, but to essentially "present the case" for bilingual education.

We called upon many of the most distinguished researchers in the field and asked them to provide guidance in answering the question that had been posed to us. (Their names are listed at the end of the report). This report represents a synthesis of their recommendations along with some analysis of basic education data. Our essential conclusion is that while no single program is best for all children under all circumstances, a well-implemented bilingual program can provide outcomes "at least" as positive as a well- implemented English only program, and has the added advantage of potentially providing students with a second language --a considerable asset. It is only fair to note that had we been challenged to provide all sides of the debate, our conclusions would not have differed greatly, given that they are based on a considered analysis of the best empirical data we have been able to locate in the literature.

How Long Does It Take English Learners to Attain Proficiency

One of the most commonly asked questions about the education of language minority students is how long they need special services, such as English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) and bilingual education. Under the U. S. Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Civil Rights Act in Lau v. Nichols (1974), local school districts and states have an obligation to provide appropriate services to limited-English-proficient students (in California now referred to as EL or English learner students), but policy makers have long debated setting time limits for students to receive such services. The purpose of this paper is to pull together findings that directly address this question.

This study reports on data from four different school districts to draw conclusions on how long it takes students to develop oral and academic English proficiency. Academic English proficiency refers to the ability to use language in academic contexts, which is particularly important for long-term success in school. Two of the data sets are from two school districts in the San Francisco Bay Area and the other two are based on summary data from reports by researchers in Canada. The data were used to analyze various forms of English proficiency as a function of length of exposure to English. The clear conclusion emerging from these data sets is that even in two California districts that are considered the most successful in teaching English to LEP students, oral proficiency takes 3 to 5 years to develop, and academic English proficiency can take 4 to 7 years. The data from the two school districts in Canada offer corroboration. Indeed, these estimates of the time it takes may be underestimates, because only students who remained the same district since kindergarten were included. While critics of bilingual education have claimed that use of the native language delays the acquisition of English (a claim that is without foundation in the academic literature on bilingualism), it is worth noting that only one of the three districts offered bilingual education. The analysis also revealed continuing and widening gap between EL students and native English speakers. The gap illustrates the daunting task facing these students, who not only have to acquire oral and academic English, but also have to keep pace with native English speakers, who continue to develop their language skills. It may simply not be possible, within the constraints of the time available in regular formal school hours, to offer efficient instruction that would enable the EL students to catch up with the rest.

Alternatives such as special summer and after-school programs may be needed. The results suggest that policies that assume rapid acquisition of English – the extreme case being Proposition 227 that explicitly calls for “sheltered English immersion during a temporary transition period not normally intended to exceed one year” – are wildly unrealistic.

A much more sensible policy would be one that sets aside the entire spectrum of the elementary grades as the realistic range within which English acquisition is accomplished, and plans a balanced curriculum that pays attention not just to English, but to the full array of academic needs of the students.

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Joint Publications (3)

Listening to Teachers of English Language Learners: A Survey of California Teachers’ Challenges, Experiences, and Professional Development Needs

As long as students with limited English language skills have attended California schools a debate has raged among educators and policy-makers regarding how best to educate these children. A major focal point of this debate is bilingual education. That is, the viability, advisability, and effectiveness of using students’ primary language in instruction. However, everyone agrees that English Language Learners (ELs) must learn English, learn it well, and meet rigorous standards. No matter what the method or program of instruction, teachers of English language learners need special skills and training to effectively accomplish this task.

Resource Needs for English Learners: Getting Down to Policy Recommendations

This document is an extension of the original report, entitled Resource Needs for California’s English Learners, authored by Patricia Gándara and Russell Rumberger, and is the result of deliberations from several informal meetings and two formal convenings of major stakeholders in the area of English Learner (EL) education. Its intent is to suggest a series of policy options, based on data examined in the initial report, that the state should consider to strengthen the educational offerings and outcomes for California’s burgeoning popula- tion of linguistic minority students.

Preparing Teachers for Diversity: A Dilemma of Quality and Quantity

The paper documents the characteristics of California’s existing student and teacher population, explores research on the effect on students of having teachers who are from minority groups and/or teachers who earn credentials from programs that focus on diversity is- sues, identifies barriers to increasing the number of teachers with diverse backgrounds in the workforce, and makes recommendations to in- crease the pool of minority teachers and to improve the preparation of teachers to perform effectively with diverse students.

Technical Reports (2)

Preschool Participation and the Cognitive and Social Development of Language Minority Students

This study examined participation in preschool and its relationship with the cognitive and social development of language minority students. Although there is a large body of research that demonstrates the cognitive and social benefits of attending preschool (Barnett, 1995; Gorey, 2001; National Research Council, Committee on Early Childhood Pedagogy, 2000; Vandell, 2004), very little of this research has included language minority students, or at least those who do not speak English. Either non-English speaking families are not included in the design of the study, such as with the widely cited National Institute for Child Health and Development (NICHD) Early Child Care Study, or the studies are based on cognitive and social assessments that are only conducted in English (e.g., Magnuson, Meyers, Ruhm, & Waldfogel, 2004). Consequently, little is known about participation in and outcomes of preschool for the growing population of language minority students.

Academic English: A Conceptual Framework

Learning academic English is probably one of the surest, most reliable ways of attaining socio- economic success in the United States today. Learners cannot function in school settings effectively without it. This variety of English entails the multiple, complex features of English required for success in public schooling and career advancement. It involves mastery of a writing system and its particular academic conventions as well as proficiency in reading, speaking, and listening. Unfortunately, academic English has often been ignored or under-emphasized in public school instruction. Many have not understood its importance in helping students function in school settings or have misunderstood its complex nature. This paper discusses approaches to the study of academic English and presents a multi-dimensional framework for analyzing it. The dimensions include linguistic, cognitive, and socio-cultural/psychological ones. The paper also describes the relationship between the English used in everyday situations and in academic ones. It concludes with a brief discussion of research implications pertaining to instruction, assessment, and professional development.

Working Papers (3)

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.

Understanding and Addressing the California Latino Achievement Gap in Early Elementary School

One of the most pressing problems in California is improving student academic performance, especially the state’s burgeoning Latino student population. This study examined the extent of the achievement gap between Latino and White students over the first two years of elementary school and the characteristics of students and schools that contribute to it. The analysis revealed that Latino students begin kindergarten at a considerable educational disadvantage relative to White students and the disadvantage increases during the first two years of school. Yet schools do little to widen or narrow these differences. Instead achievement differences increase when students are not in school. Consequently, to reduce the achievement gap will require both effective education policies and policies that address the overall social welfare of Latinos outside of school.

The Inequitable Treatment of English Learners in California’s Public Schools

In California, the state is responsible for ensuring equality of educational opportunity for all of its students. Yet, with respect to English learners, the state has largely failed even to assess the conditions of education for these students. It has not adequately monitored their educational opportunities in terms of access to critical resources such as qualified teachers, appropriate instructional materials, coursework, and learning environments. In this study we first examine the achievement gap for English learners in California. Second, we review evidence in seven areas in which these students receive a substantially inequitable education vis-à-vis their English- speaking peers, even when those peers are similarly economically disadvantaged. Third, we examine the failure of the state to monitor, prevent and correct substandard EL learning conditions. Finally, we discuss some possible ways for the state to equalize the opportunities for this significant sub-population of students.

EL Facts (7)

The Intersection of Language, Race/Ethnicity, Immigration Status, and Poverty

Researchers, policymakers, and practitioners are often interested in a number of demographic characteristics of students, such as race and ethnicity, language background, immigration status, and poverty. For example, the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation requires schools and districts to report student test scores separately for major racial and ethnic groups, English learners, disabled students, and poor students. Yet while demographic populations are often viewed as distinct, in fact, these populations frequently intersect.

One Quarter of California’s Teachers for English Learners Not Fully Certified

Although the passage of Proposition 227 reduced the demand for bilingual teachers, an acute shortage of teachers qualified to deliver needed instructional services to English learners remains. In 1998, prior to the passage of 227, 43 percent of the teachers providing instructional services to English learners were not fully certified to provide those services—33 percent of teachers were in training to provide English language development (ELD) or Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English (SDAIE) and 10 percent were in training to provide primary language instruction. By 2001-02, 25 percent of teachers providing instructional services to English learners were not fully certified. Statewide, almost 14 percent of all teachers do not hold a full credential. So English learners are almost twice as likely as students generally to be taught by a teacher who is not fully certified. That figure is even higher if you include another 14 percent of teachers who have other than a California Teacher Commission (CTC) authorization, which can be obtained with less rigorous training through a SB1969 certificate or a district designation.

Tenth Grade Dropout Rates by Native Language, Race/Ethnicity, and Socioeconomic Status

One of the most important indicators of educational performance is the high school dropout rate. Reducing dropout rates and improving high school graduation rates are important goals for both educators and policymakers. Yet there is a great deal of controversy about how best to measure dropout and graduation rates. This issue of EL Facts provides estimates of dropout rates for language minority students, racial and ethnic groups, and socioeconomic groups.

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Newsletters (46)
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