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Standards for Preschool ELLs: It's a Trend


California is poised to be the first state to adopt a set of standards, which state officials call "learning foundations," for English-language development devoted to preschool ELLs, according to officials of the California Department of Education. The California standards spell out what preschool ELLs should know at the "beginning," "middle," and "later" stages of learning English for the areas of speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Find a link to them here.

In trying to figure out what kind of ground California is breaking, I found out that Maryland is set to adopt standards for English-language development that include the prekindergarten level. The proposed standards are grouped for grades prekindergarten-5 and 6-12. Check them out here.

Also, World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment, a consortium of 15 states housed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has included prekindergarten in its 2007 edition of standards for English-language development. WIDA has created a separate set of English-language-development standards for prekindergarten and kindergarten together. Previously, it had K-2 grouped together, Tim Boals, the executive director of WIDA, told me in a telephone interview this week.

States are required by the No Child Left Behind Act to have English-language proficiency standards for ELLs in grades K-12—not for preschoolers. But Mr. Boals said the consortium added the prekindergarten level this year because "a lot of schools now include prekindergarten, and it's beneficial for the teachers to have standards."

Norman Yee, the vice president of the school board of the San Francisco Unified School District, said he is concerned about what he views as a trend of the K-12 philosophy of education moving "downward" to reach younger children. He believes California's proposed "learning foundations" are evidence of that trend. Mr. Yee, who used to head an organization that ran several preschools in California, would rather see the philosophy of preschool moving "upward" into K-12.

In a good preschool program, said Mr. Yee, "we consider a child individually, where they are at. We try to develop their interests in a very holistic way. We will provide activities and less focus on only a few items, such as the ABCs. Yes, we want them to do [the ABCs], but we want them to love education and love reading."

(Nov. 27 Update: My article about this topic in Education Week, "California Weighs Preschool ELL Standards," has been posted.)

What do you think? Does your state need a set of comprehensive standards for English-language development in preschool?


I think this is idiocy in one of its purer forms. Everyone but racial politicos and educators knows that the best way to teach very young children a new language is simply to put them in a regular English class, where they will function normally within weeks. But the bilingual educators wants to force more demand for their bilingual skills, with the implied extra pay; and the Latino politicos want to keep immigrant population with poor English, to keep their constituency intact. So what is new here?

It is unfortunate that this has been published only days before the comment deadline. California was quick to yank it off the web once the comment period expired yesterday.

I work for the government and I'd better keep anon.

There's a long history of research into how humans learn language and how second language develops. Ignoring that it exists to promote personal opinion doesn't make the facts go away. Throwing students into English only classes will not lead to academic success within weeks. I don't know what Anon believes "functioning normally" is, but learning to read, write, speak, and understand English or any second language takes time and requires great teachers.

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