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Next Generation Science Standards and English-Learners

One of the chief concerns about the development of the Common Core State Standards is that the needs of English-language learners were not given much consideration, or even were overlooked, as the standards writers set about their work drafting new academic goals in English/language arts and mathematics. Now, of course, there are multiple efforts underway to develop resources, strategies, and materials to ensure that ELLs will have the same access to the new content standards, regardless of their language proficiency.

But with the still-in-draft-form "next generation" science standards—which are a separate effort from the common core—the needs of ELLs have at least two obvious representatives among the 41 K-12 educators and university professors who make up the writing team.

Okhee Lee, an education professor at New York University and probably the best-known expert on ELLs and science, is on the team. As is Emily Miller, a 2nd and 3rd grade ESL and bilingual resource teacher at Hawthorne Elementary School in Madison, Wis.

Lee is also a member of the Understanding Language team at Stanford University, which is in the midst of creating a number of free resources for teaching the math and reading common core standards and the new science standards to English-learners.

She and two other colleagues—including Helen Quinn, a professor emeritus of physics at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center at Stanford University and the chair of the National Research Council panel which developed the conceptual framework which guided the writers of the science standards—have published a paper that discusses the challenges and opportunities for English-learners in the new standards in science.

The draft of the common science standards—on which 26 "lead states" are collaborating —is available for review and will be open to a second round of public comment later this year, with early 2013 likely to be the release date for the final version. State adoption, as it was in the common core, is voluntary.

To hear Professor Lee discussing the new science standards and what they will demand of science teachers working with English-learners, check out this presentation she gave to New York City teachers in early May.

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