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Got Any Good Secondary ELL Approaches for Texas?


Texas officials say the state will likely appeal the ruling issued by a federal court on July 25 that programs for ELLs in grades 7-12 in the Lone Star State must be revamped.

But in the meantime, I'm thinking that state officials will still be on the lookout for approaches that work with ELLs in middle and high schools. While I was reporting my story about the ruling, "Federal Court Ruling Prods Texas on ELLs," published at edweek.org yesterday, Deborah Short, a researcher for the Washington-based Center for Applied Linguistics, told me she can't think of any particular school districts or states across the nation that have shown lasting success with ELLs at the secondary level. Staff members of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have asked her for such recommendations, she says, and she's able to point only to individual schools.

In more than eight years of reporting on ELLs, I've seen only two reports that critique the quality of education for secondary school ELLs nationwide (let me know if you know of others). They are Overlooked and Underserved and Double the Work, which Ms. Short co-authored. I expect the Texas ruling will create more of a buzz around this issue in education circles.


While Ms. Short cannot point to districts or States with long-lasting success, the underlying reason for this fact is an interesting question to explore. However, the fact that she can provide examples of individual schools that have shown lasting success at the secondary level means successful programs are in place. The question is have these model programs be replicated? Have States and other districts taken sufficient interest in implementing programs that work? The problem should begin with what processes are in place to increase application of those programs that have a track record at working. Then look at those schools where success has been elusive and analyze where the gaps in implementation are.

As noted in a previous comment, Ryll International, in conjunction with a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education, completed research related to significant issues affecting secondary school level English Language Learners and recommended some viable alternatives to current policies and practices. This research report has been published in brief by the Florida Sunshine State TESOL Journal at http://www.sstesoljournal.org/ and is titled: The Impact of Placement Practices on English Language Learners. The research indicates that inappropriate placement practices results in classrooms consisting of students whose range of educational needs precludes successful differentiated instruction, especially at the secondary level. The research is supported by input from teachers around the country who completed an in depth survey and responded to detailed questions. Ryll International is currently working on a Handbook for Teachers as a follow up to the initial research.

I suggest visiting the website of the Internationals Network for Public Schools (www.internationalsnps.org) for information on the ten International high Schools and their positive record in educating recently-arrived ELL students in New York City. The most recently opened such schools include: Pan American International High School (PAIHS) in Queens, NY, and the first International High School in California, Oakland International High School (OIHS).

According to the website, "Internationals Network for Public Schools outcomes demonstrates a track record of success in serving English Language Learners (ELLs). We engage in a quantitative and qualitative examination of our outcomes in order to ensure that we continue to optimally serve our students. There are links to: Student Performance, Success Stories, and Testimonials.

Luis O. Reyes

I would also suggest looking outside our own country. Many countries outside the US teach a second language early, and by my understanding, quite successfully. Hong Kong, perhaps, Finland.

It is not necessary to look outside of the NCLB Title III legislation to find the solution to Lau v Nicols for ELLs in US K-12 schools. The legislation requires states to develop well-defined rigorous English Language Proficiency standards K-12 that include the linguistic domains of listening, speaking, reading and writing and report on comprehension that are ALIGNED to the state K-12 academic content and academic achievement standards that are set by the state for all students. The Alignment of the 3 sets of standards is the core of Lau v Nichols that states "language may not be a barrier to academic content knowledge" and the key to K-12 ELL academic success in US schools.When language standards are aligned to grade level content and academic achievement standards, students are acquiring the level of language that is required to understand (access) the grade level content in reading/ language arts, math and science. The key factor is that they must be aligned. Curriculum that is aligned to the core academic content standards is then aligned to the English language proficiency standards and all content,ESL,Bilingual teachers must have the skills and instructional tools necessary to teach both language development, second language acquisition and grade level academic subject matter simultaneously.ELL students may not be removed from classrooms during core instructional time which places the responsibility of the academic achievement of ELL students on the regular classroom teacher. Title III requires a new systemic approach by outlining a statewide,integrated, comprehensive system of standards, assessment, aligned curriculum and research-based instructional strategies for high academic achievment for all ELL student in each state, district and school. Within this system a state, district or school may choose any program approach or model as long as it adheres to the state aligned standards and academic achievement objectives and state legislated program preference. A state or district may choose bilingual, 2 way dual language immersion, ESL,or structured English immersion programs depending on the state, district or community goals. Although,the new legislation is a dramatic shift from past individual district,school or classroom efforts, it addresses the original intent of the 1974 Supreme Court mandate and offers a roadmap for ELL high academic achievment throughout our nation's schools.

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