English Language Learners and the Achievement Gap
Students who are not proficient in English are at a distinct disadvantage in not only learning required material, but in demonstrating that knowledge. Identifying these students and tailoring learning to each student’s specific needs is a must. . On this page you will find an ever-growing archive of articles, tools, and resources focused on effectively teaching these students.
In our last article we invited you to spend some time reflecting on the successes you had with your ELL students last year. As we gear up to start another school year, now is the time to use your creative juices to think more deeply and concretely about how you and your colleagues might further improve how ELL students are being served in your school.
What were your personal successes with your ELLs this year? Was a student finally able to master article usage? Did your newcomer learn to use irregular verb constructions? Were you finally able to meet with the parents of a student whose absences were making you concerned? Or maybe you convinced a colleague who teaches math to attend an ELL professional development workshop with you. No matter the scale of these events, make no mistake in thinking that these were not significant measures of your value as an educator.
At the beginning of every school year, Michigan educators go through the process of identifying students who are ELLs. At the end of every school year, educators across the state examine data to make decisions about whether or not students are ready to be exited from ELL status. The reason we go through this process of identifying and reclassifying ELLs is obvious—to ensure that students who are in the process of acquiring English proficiency have a meaningful opportunity to learn (OTL). However, the mechanics of ensuring OTL are much more complex.
In reality, there are five key aspects to ensuring OTL for ELLs. This quintessential quintet can help educators evaluate how well their schools are performing when it comes to providing ELLs with OTL. You can click on each of these five elements to explore how them and learn more about common errors that arise in schools.
The United States has a long tradition of resettling refugees. Since the Refugee Act of 1980, 1.8 million refugees have come to live in the United States. Approximately 35 to 40 percent of these refugees are children (Bridging Refugee Youth and Children's Services, 2014), many of whom are also students in American public schools.
Schools with significant populations of ELLs in their communities face many different challenges as they think through how to bridge the school-community gap. Although making community connections is important for all schools, the language and cultural differences between educators and business and church leaders in these areas of high ELL concentrations can certainly make the task of reaching out daunting. Even challenges such as knowing who to contact can inhibit making those connections. However, examples of successful partnerships do exist here in Michigan.