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American Institutes for Research Focuses on ELLs

The American Institutes for Research signals in a post for a job opening that the organization plans to increase the attention it is giving to the education of English-language learners. The post, published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, says the organization seeks to hire a senior specialist on English-language learners who will have the opportunity to "shape and expand the ELL practice area at AIR and build AIR's leadership in the field."

You can find the section of the AIR's Web site featuring English-language learners here.

Last month, I wrote an article for Education Week about several research briefs released by the AIR that were precursors to a comprehensive evaluation of the implementation of Title III, the section of the No Child Left Behind Act that authorizes funds for language-acquisition programs. The research briefs reported that only 11 states had met their accountability goals for English-language learners under NCLB in the 2007-08 school year.

Also last month, the AIR published a "reference guide" that critiques whether various common assumptions about how English-language learners should be educated match research evidence. For example, the guide says that while some educators assume that learning two or more languages in school will impede a child's fluency in both languages, in fact, "findings from multiple research studies have established that rapid, unsupported English-language acquisition is not a realistic goal for ELL instruction." Rather, the guide says, a curriculum that supports language development and academic learning in both English and students' native language over a sustained period of time is a "more reasonable approach" to closing the achievement gap between ELLs and native speakers of English.

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