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ELL Trends Have Shifted, Believe it Or Not

An assignment for EdWeek reporters from their editors this summer is to update a series of online issue briefs that we call "backgrounders." I just finished updating the one about English-language learners. The editors, by the way, planned the updating project before they learned from reporting by my colleague Christina Samuels that the Broad Superintendents Academy has been using some of them as part of their curriculum to train administrators. We certainly don't want the Broad fellows, or anyone else for that matter, to miss out on learning about the latest trends.

What struck me most in writing the update was that the debate of whether it's better to use bilingual education or English-only methods to teach English-language learners no longer dominates the field. I took out several paragraphs about that debate and replaced them with information about the topic that now seems to be drawing the most attention: how to consider the needs of ELLs in implementing the states' common-core academic standards. That discussion fits into a larger discussion of how ELLs can best gain access to the core curriculum in schools, which is their right under federal law.

Other trends I mention are explorations in how to implement response to intervention, a tiered approach to supporting struggling students, with ELLs, and how to change a whole school to create an environment conducive to learning for ELLs. That involves providing professional development for all teachers on how to work with ELLs, not just specialists, as was more commonly the case up until a few years ago.

I also used a fair amount of space in the updated backgrounder to report how the U.S. Department of Education has been aggressive in enforcing civil rights for ELLs.

Take a look at the finished product, hit the comment button, and give us your two cents on what you think the hottest trends are for the education of ELLs.

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