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New Glossary Aims to Offer Clarity on Language-Learner Terms

The New America Foundation has put together a glossary of language-learner terms that aims to offer clarity on what educators mean when they talk about dual-language learners, English-language learners, long-term English-learners, and other groups of students

The piece kicked off a 10-week series of blog posts related to the education of dual-language learners in public schools. The glossary helps highlight the "substantial diversity that exists" among language-learners, wrote the author, Ashley Simpson Baird, a former bilingual teacher.

The series is part of an effort by New America's Dual Language Learners National Work Group that's working to inform policymakers, spotlight schools adopting novel approaches to educating language-learners, and bring together the nation's leading experts and advocates for discussions. The foundation's blog post points out that most of the terms "emphasize language learners' lack of English proficiency, rather than recognizing the valuable bi- or multilingual assets that many students possess."

Others organizations, including the Council of Chief State School Officers, have made attempts to pin down the definition of English-learner.

In some education circles, the various terms are interchangeable. The New America Foundation argues that the definitions and distinctions matter because they can impact two things: federal funding and the ways in which districts and schools are held accountable for the academic performance of language-learners.

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