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English-Language Learners, Common Core, and Filling in the Gaps

It's no secret that the common standards in English/language arts and mathematics call for a whole lot more language use, and more-sophisticated language use.

Every student, whether a native-English speaker or a second-language learner, is expected to engage in conversation and discourse in the classroom, read and understand complex texts, and craft effective oral and written arguments, to name just a few of the demands. And content teachers will play a more prominent role in students' literacy and language development, and are going to need a quiver of strategies to support ELLs in the new standards, if this big and diverse population of students is to succeed.

Advocates and educators who work most closely with English-language learners for the most part agree that the new, rigorous standards hold promise for this population of students, who too often have been deprived of full access to meaningful, academically-challenging curriculum as schools and districts focused on making sure they acquired English-language skills.

But one California research and advocacy group makes a case for the gaps that must be filled, and how to fill them, so that achievement and access to rigorous content don't actually get worse for ELLs in the common-core era.

In a brand-new toolkit, Californians Together outlines a number of concerns it has for the more-than 1 million English-learners in California, where ELLs make up 25 percent of the K-12 enrollment. The group urges educators to become advocates for policy changes and for changes in classroom practice.

The toolkit includes specific things educators can question, ask for, and do at their schools, in their districts, and even on a broader level in counties and states, to push for supports for English-learners.

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