Tackling the challenge of achievement gaps is daunting. And then throw in the variables of differing sets of terms, requirements and regulations that drive both the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This challenge plays out at the district level where students with Individual Education Programs (IEPs) are for the most part, taught and supported by both general and special educators. Both sets of educators bring various attributes to the table: training, expertise, instructional tools and data sets, mindsets and experience, among others. In the midst of this sits the individual student, with attributes that must be understood and built upon to assure his/her learning.

“Don’t we know by now that poor kids can’t learn?  Their parents are really kids themselves. They don’t have resources at home. They can’t help that. They’re kids. Why are we putting so much pressure on them?  And if we are being honest with ourselves, it’s ten times worse if we lump in the ESL kids, the disabled kids and, Lord help me, those special ed kids!”

During my first week as a third-grade teacher in the Rio Grande Valley, I was immediately confronted by the English language learner (ELL) achievement gap. Results from a diagnostic reading assessment I administered showed that not a single one of my students was reading on grade level and four of my students were actually reading below a first-grade level. One of my students did not know how to write his first name.

Abedi, J. (2004). The No Child Left Behind Act and English language learners: Assessment and accountability issues. Educational Researcher, 33(1), 4.

Abedi, J. (2008). Classification system for English language learners: Issues and recommendations. Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice, 27(3), 17–31.

Au, K. H. (1993). Literacy instruction in multicultural settings. Orlando, FL: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

August, D., & Hakuta, K. (1997). Improving schooling for language-minority children: A research agenda. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.

Bailey, A. L., & Kelly, K. R. (2010). The Use and Validity of Home Language Surveys in State English Language Proficiency Assessment Systems: A Review and Issues Perspective. Los Angeles, CA: UCLA.

Calderon, M. (2007). Teaching reading to English language learners, grades 6-12: A framework for improving achievement in the content areas. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

DeCapua, A., & Marshall, H.W. (2011). Breaking new ground: Teaching students with limited or interrupted formal education in U.S. secondary schools. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Freeman, Y.S., & Freeman, D.E. (2002). Closing the achievement gap: How to reach limited-formal-schooling and long-term English learners. Portsmouth, NH: Heinneman.

Garcia Bedolla, L. & Rodriguez, R. (2011). Classifying California's English Learners: Is the CELDT too Blunt an Instrument? Berkeley, CA: Center for Latino Policy Research.

Kindler, A. L. (2002). Survey of the states' limited English proficient students and available educational programs and services: 2000–2001 summary report. Washington, D.C.: National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition and Language Instruction Educational Programs.

National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition & Language Instruction Educational Programs (NCELA). The Growing Numbers of English Learner Students. Retrieved from http://www.ncela.gwu.edu/files/uploads/9/growingLEP_0708.pdf.

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-110, § 115 (2002).

Spaulding, S., Carolino, B., & Amen, K. (2004). Immigrant students and secondary school reform: Compendium of best practices. Washington, D.C.: Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).

Zacarian, D. & Haynes, J. (2012). The essential guide for educating beginning English learners. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Go to top