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Stanford to Lead Creation of ELL Standards for 'Common Core'

Stanford University has received a grant of $1 million from the Carnegie Corporation of New York to create English-language-proficiency standards for the states' common-core academic standards.

Kenji Hakuta, an education professor at Stanford and a long-time expert on ELLs, and Maria Santos, the former director of programs for ELLs for the New York City school system, are co-chairs of the national effort to write standards for English-language learners to parallel the language arts and mathematics standards of the common core, as well as the next generation of science standards that are expected to be developed.

By funding the effort, the Carnegie Corporation fills a gaping hole in the process of implementing the common-core standards for ELLs. The U.S. Department of Education earlier this year launched a grant competition for English-language-proficiency tests to be developed for the common-core standards, but the $10.7 million provided for that competition doesn't pay for the development of English-language-proficiency standards, which typically come first. The winner or winners of the assessment-grant competition are expected to be announced in August.

The gap created "a moment in time" for the Carnegie Corp. to back the writing of standards for ELLs, said Andrés Henríquez, a program officer in the national program at the Carnegie Corp. "If we don't do it in this time frame, we lose this opportunity," he said.

"The effort is to think about the content areas in the common core that offer strategically fertile areas around which language instruction can take place," Hakuta explained to me. The standards will elaborate on what ELLs should know and be able to do in the content areas at different English-proficiency levels, he said.

Organizations that are represented on the steering committee for the project are the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Council of the Great City Schools, and the National Council of La Raza.

Other than Hakuta and Santos, six people are part of the core group responsible for carrying out the project. They are Susan Pimental, the lead writer for the common-core language-arts standards; Phil Daro, the lead writer for the common-core math standards; Helen Quinn, the chair of the effort to create a framework for K-12 science standards; Okhee Lee, an expert on ELLs and science at the University of Miami; and Judit Moschkovich, an expert on ELLs and math, and George Bunch, an expert on ELLs and social studies, both from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

The grant, which lasts for two years, is called "Building on Common-Core Standards to Improve Learning for English-language Learners." (By way of disclosure, the Carnegie Corporation also underwrites coverage of leadership, human-capital development, expanded and extended learning time, and arts learning in Education Week.)

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