From the ATTACHED readings, choose one Supreme Court case or one educational policy. In a 500-750-word essay, discuss the impact that this case or policy has had on the education of English language learners (ELLs). How has this case or policy helped contribute to the academic success of ELLs? How will this case or policy help improve education for ELL students? What gaps still exist?
Include at least three sources from your reading to support your position.
Prepare this assignment according to the APA guidelines found in the APA Style
Reference: Mora, J. K. (2009). From the Ballot Box to the Classroom. Educational Leadership, 66(7), 14-19.
Using state ballot initiatives to regulate the education of language-minority students is like using a sledgehammer to repair a wristwatch
In the last decade, ballot initiatives in several states have asked voters to make policy decisions about the education of English language learners. These initiatives have run counter to the spirit of past federal laws and court decisions that established the right of language-minority children to a meaningful and equitable education. Let’s take a brief look at the history.
During the civil rights era of the 1960s, federal and state governments created laws and policies regarding the education of the growing number of language-minority students in the public schools. The Bilingual Education Act (Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1968) was heralded as landmark legislation in support of programs for educating language-minority students. This federal law provided legal guidelines and funding for transitional bilingual education programs.
A series of federal court decisions subsequently broadened the scope and implementation of Title VII. The Supreme Court decision in Lau v. Nichols (1974) required school districts to take affirmative steps to protect the civil rights of limited-English-proficient students. In Lau, Chinese parents in San Francisco claimed that the school district’s failure to provide their children with a specially designed program to teach them English violated their civil rights. The court’s unanimous decision stated that children who do not speak English are entitled to equal access to the school curriculum and that the plaintiffs had been prevented from receiving a meaningful and effective education. One means of addressing these rights was through implementation of bilingual education programs, which give students the opportunity to learn academic content in their native language while they gain competence in English.
Several federal and state court cases since Lau v. Nichols established the requirements for programs for language-minority students (Crawford, 2000). In 1981, the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ ruling in Castañeda v. Pickard outlined a three-pronged test, stating that to adequately meet the needs of these students under the provisions of the 1974 Equal Educational Opportunities Act, programs must ( 1) be based on a pedagogically sound plan, ( 2) have enough qualified teachers to implement the program, and ( 3) have a system to evaluate the program’s effectiveness.
From 1998 to 2008, voters in five states were asked to decide policy for educating English language learners. Anti-bilingual-education ballot initiatives passed in California (1998), Arizona (2000), and Massachusetts (2002) but were rejected in Colorado (2002) and most recently in Oregon (2008).
The propositions that became law in California, Arizona, and Massachusetts require that English language learners be educated for one year through an approach called sheltered (or structured) English immersion, in which all instruction is in English; students must then transfer into mainstream English classrooms. These laws allow instruction of students in their non-English native language only under limited and restricted conditions through a parental petition and waiver process.
The political discourse leading up to the votes in these five states was highly contentious and largely unrelated to the practical and pedagogical issues facing public school administrators, teachers, parents, and students. Proponents argued that instruction in students’ native language retards their learning of English and academic subjects. Opponents maintained that native-language instruction supports language acquisition and content learning while English language learners are acquiring enough English to succeed in all-English classrooms.
When we analyze the arguments, ideologies, and constituencies that either supported or opposed the initiatives, it is clear that conflicts about how to educate populations of immigrant students tap into deeper sociological and cultural issues sparked by demographic changes (Mora, 2002).
Proponents of the initiatives believe that new immigrants must abandon their native languages and cultural practices to fully assimilate into U.S. society. They fear that Spanish-speaking immigrants in particular have been “clinging” to their language and resisting learning English. Through a misguided sense of altruism, many of these proponents believe that policies designed to force children to adopt English as their dominant or only language will promote rapid assimilation and increase students’ academic achievement.
Opponents of the anti-bilingual-education measures see bilingualism as a social, economic, cultural, and academic advantage for first- and second-generation immigrants. They do not see bilingualism as an obstacle to societal integration of new immigrant populations; on the contrary, they believe that students who study and learn in two languages and become fully proficient and literate in their home language and in English can enjoy the richness and values of two linguistic systems and two cultural traditions that complement and enhance each other.
In fact, sociological and educational research supports the notion that immigrant students who retain their bilingual skills and their ties to their parents’ culture of origin are more academically successful and socially well-adapted in the long term than their peers who become English monolinguals (Portes&Rumbaut, 2001). These researchers concluded that “forced march assimilation” policies for educating immigrant youth are counterproductive.
As the initiative campaigns made claims and counterclaims about the effectiveness of bilingual programs versus English-only instruction, the ideal and actual rates of English acquisition, the reclassification of English language learners as fluent English speakers, and the assimilation of immigrant students into U.S. society, voters with very little information or technical expertise about education programs for immigrant students were deciding on their fate. Moll and Ruiz (2002) characterize the English-only movement in the schools as a struggle over “educational sovereignty” (p. 368) in determining who will control programs and resources for English language learners.
The political rhetoric and appeals to voters contained scant reference to the credible and growing body of scholarly research on the effectiveness of the different program designs. Further, the polemics focused almost entirely on how language-minority students learn English, neglecting the broader issues of how these students learn language, literacy, and content as they progress through the grades toward high school graduation. Even discussions about the achievement gap between English language learners and native English speakers were distorted because by definition, English language learners are students whose lack of English proficiency prevents them from performing as well as their native-English-speaking peers.
It is left up to educators to sort out myth from reality.
The amount and quality of research on language-minority student achievement has increased significantly in the years following passage of the state ballot initiatives (Goldenberg, 2008). School administrators and teachers grappling with the often confusing and contradictory premises of these popular initiatives can draw on three useful sources of information: ( 1) meta-analyses of research studies regarding program effectiveness and instructional practices that support and enhance achievement, ( 2) studies of the initiatives’ effect on English language learners’ English language acquisition and academic achievement, and ( 3) databases that compile language assessments administered to large populations of English language learners over time and across grade levels. Several myths about the instruction of English language learners do not stand up to scrutiny when examined through the lens of this research base.
Two comprehensive reports have analyzed the approaches that schools use to educate English language learners — a meta-analysis of findings from 293 studies of literacy achievement among English language learners from 1980 to 2000 by August and Shanahan (2006) and a synthesis of the research by Genesee, Lindholm-Leary, Saunders, and Christian (2006). Schools throughout the United States use a variety and range of theoretically sound programs to meet the needs of their specific populations of English language learners, who vary in demographic and linguistic characteristics.
For instance, bilingual programs are appropriate and effective in schools that serve concentrations of students who use a common native language. In many schools, however, English language learners speak a number of different native languages; such schools often use English as the common language of content-area instruction. Therefore, some state agencies and language-minority educators advocate a mix of services and program types in response to each school district’s demographic mix — an approach that contradicts the state laws requiring a default model of sheltered English immersion (California Legislative Analyst’s Office, 2004). Unfortunately, the ballot initiatives have narrowed the range of viable program options for educating large numbers of English language learners.
Proponents of the ballot initiatives mandating sheltered English immersion argue that bilingual education is the reason for low levels of English proficiency among immigrant students — especially Latinos, the group served by the vast majority of the bilingual programs. They claim that bilingual education slows down English acquisition, thus contributing to the high dropout rates among Latinos. Because bilingual education is the problem, getting rid of bilingual instruction is the solution.
But according to Education Week, cumulative and comparative studies based on National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) scores suggest that statewide mandates limiting bilingual education in California, Arizona, and Massachusetts have produced “less-than-stellar” results (Zehr, 2008, p. 10).
The California Department of Education commissioned a comprehensive study of the effects of Proposition 227 five years after its passage (Parrish, Pérez, Merickel, &Linquanti, 2006). The study found that students participating in English-only education programs had no statistically significant advantage in terms of academic achievement over those in bilingual education programs that parents chose through the waiver process under the law. The study also found that no one approach produces academic excellence for English language learners; rather, high achievement is associated with a number of factors, including the school’s capacity to address the needs of English language learners; a focus on standards-based instruction; shared priorities and high expectations; systemic, ongoing assessment; and data-driven decision making.
Thus, ballot initiatives have not realized their goal of improving English language learners’ academic achievement.
In denying the injunction against the implementation of Proposition 227, the U.S. District Court in Valeria G. v. Wilson (1998) ruled that structured English immersion was based on delivery of English language and content instruction that was “sequential” rather than “simultaneous.” The (incorrect) assumption is that focusing on teaching English first and then providing intensive remedial instruction in academic content will give language-minority students equal access to the curriculum.
The focus of the debate about the best methods and approaches for educating language-minority students has been on how quickly they can learn English. This focus is based on the belief that the “problem” facing these students is essentially a “language problem.” If students receive intensive English instruction when they first enter school, this approach claims their language learning will be accelerated, and the language problem will be solved. As soon as they master the language, they can easily catch up with native English speakers in literacy and content learning.
But this approach fails to acknowledge the two-pronged challenge for California’s language-minority population: learning English and mastering the content standards for each grade of their schooling. Annual administrations of the California English Language Development Test (CELDT) to all English language learners in the state from 2001 to 2007 have created a large database that provides a comprehensive picture of students’ progress in acquiring English skills. The CELDT data belie the “learn English quickly” myth, revealing that it takes an average of six years for English language learners to acquire full English proficiency (California Legislative Analyst’s Office, 2004). Only 13 percent of English language learners who received services for English acquisition beginning in kindergarten were reclassified as fluent English proficient by 3rd grade. Parrish and colleagues (2006) examined the CELDT data and other achievement data and found that there is only a 40 percent possibility of California’s English language learners being reclassified as English proficient after 10 years in the public schools.
Perhaps if the findings described here had been available and widely disseminated to inform policymakers and the voting public about the realities and complexities of educating English language learners, the outcomes of the initiative campaigns might have been different. Hindsight aside, though, policymakers and practitioners must now work together to deal with the challenge of complying with legal mandates while maintaining the effectiveness and integrity of education programs for English language learners. Consider the following guidelines:
Programs for English language learners must be proven models with a demonstrated track record. Programs must have long-term goals and continuity in the curriculum as students move up through the grade levels. As students’ listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills in English grow, the focus of instruction should shift, and instruction should be differentiated according to students’ language levels (Mora, 2006). Differentiating the curriculum in this way requires monitoring students’ progress toward performance benchmarks in English language proficiency, literacy, and content-area learning (Gottlieb & Nguyen, 2007).
Educators must view the education of language-minority students as a shared responsibility. Teachers must have ample professional preparation in how to use appropriate curricular materials and teaching strategies to promote English language learners’ achievement. Both new and experienced teachers need intensive professional development above and beyond the teacher education coursework required by the state credential and certificate programs. For example, teachers should be knowledgeable about second-language acquisition and cross-linguistic transfer so that students learning in their second language can capitalize on the commonalities in literacy with their native language, regardless of whether their instruction is in dual languages.
Local school districts must have the freedom and support to establish sheltered English immersion programs and/or bilingual education programs depending on community values, parental choice, and available resources. Policies must allow flexibility in use of students’ native languages — especially for development of literacy skills. In states with anti-bilingual mandates, local jurisdictions should apply liberal and open interpretation of petition and waiver requirements to support parent empowerment and involvement in program selection.
Power struggles over who will make decisions about the best programs and practice for educating language-minority students must cease. Educators must view students’ bilingualism as an asset to value and foster — one that gives students access to knowledge, enhances social interaction and identification with their home cultures, and eases their transition into U.S. culture. Policymakers, educators, and the public at large must collaborate to ensure that education policies reflect the state of the art and the scientific research base.
Creating policy for English language learners through the ballot initiative process has brought about contradictions and conflict between what the law requires and what educators know to be effective. The ballot initiatives on English language learners’ education are an expression of conflicting attitudes and anxieties that play themselves out as various societal groups attempt to define the role of public education in integrating immigrants into the American mainstream.
In the context of these legal mandates and policies, schools need to use scientific research and practical experience to design and implement programs that meet the academic needs of their linguistically diverse learners. In doing so, schools will uphold the spirit of the federal laws and court decisions that established rights to a meaningful and equitable education for all students, regardless of their native language and proficiency in English.
The political rhetoric and appeals to voters contained scant reference to the credible and growing body of scholarly research.
Conflicts about how to educate populations of immigrant students tap into deeper sociological and cultural issues.
Reference:Clark, K. (n.d). The Case for Structured English Immersion. Educational Leadership, 66(7), 42-46.
Three states and many school districts are finding that emphasizing English language instruction offers ELLs an accelerated path to success
When Arizona voters passed a ballot initiative in 2000 that required all English language learners to be educated through structured English immersion (SEI), the idea seemed simple enough: Teach students the English language quickly so they can do better in school. But as other states, districts, and schools that have contemplated an SEI program have learned, the devil is in the details. As it turns out, the simple goal to “teach English quickly” frequently evokes legal wrangling, emotion, and plain old demagoguery.
Few people would disagree that English language proficiency is necessary for academic success in U.S. schools. Less clear, however, is the optimal pathway for helping language-minority students master English. Conflicting ideologies, competing academic theories, and multiple metrics for comparing different approaches have rendered many schools, districts, and educators paralyzed by confusion. Bill Holden, principal of a California elementary school in which ELLs are three-fourths of the student population, told me, “At a certain point there were just so many mixed messages and contradictory directives and policies that we didn’t really know what to do.”
Despite the controversy, however, many schools in Arizona and other states have implemented structured English immersion or are in the process of doing so. As 1 have worked with educators, school boards, and the Arizona English Language Learners Task Force to explore, design, and implement structured programs, a common theme emerges: These programs have the potential to accelerate ELLs’ English language development and linguistic preparation for grade-level academic content.
Several factors usually account for school and district leaders’ decisions to opt for structured English immersion. In three states (California, Arizona, and Massachusetts), the reason is straightforward: Laws passed through voter initiatives now require structured English immersion and restrict bilingual education.
Another factor is that most state student performance assessments are conducted in English, and schools or districts that miss targets face increased scrutiny and possible sanctions. This provides added incentive for schools to get students’ English proficiency up to speed as soon as possible.
A third factor is the burgeoning subpopulation of ELL students who reach an intermediate level of English competence after a few years — and then stop making progress. These students (more than 60 percent of all ELLs in some districts, according to analyses I conducted for 15 districts) possess conversational English competence. But they lag in their ability to apply the rules, structures, and specialized vocabularies of English necessary for grade-level academic coursework; and their writing typically features an array of structural errors. My analyses showed that the typical intermediate-level ELL scores well below proficient on state-level tests in English language arts.
Some educators have acknowledged, in fact, that intermediate English competence is the logical outcome of their current practices and program designs. “Once we really analyzed our program for ELL students,” one district superintendent told me, “we saw that we really didn’t teach English to our students. We were teaching in English, but not really teaching English.”
Keith Baker and Adriana de Kanter (1983) first coined the term structured English immersion (SEI) in a recommendation to schools to teach English to non-native speakers by using program characteristics from the successful French immersion programs in Canada. In 1991, J. David Ramirez and his colleagues conducted a voluminous study of ELL instructional programs and found that SEI programs shared two basic components: ( 1) teachers maximize instruction in English and ( 2) teachers use and teach English at a level appropriate to the abilities of the ELLs in the class (Ramirez, Yuen, & Ramey, 1991).
Since then, many people have taken a crack at defining structured English immersion. The definition presented to voters in Massachusetts was similar to those used in election materials in California and Arizona: “Nearly all classroom instruction is in English but with the curriculum and presentation designed for children who are learning the language” (Massachusetts Department of Education, 2003, p. 7).
But when Arizona’s English Language Learner Task Force began meeting in late 2006, it found that few people seemed to know what SEI should look like. Many teachers, academics, and school administrators who testified before the task force had a negative view of the state-mandated approach. Presenters frequently confused SEI with submersion, the process of placing ELLs in regular classrooms that feature little or no instructional modifications and minimal instruction in the actual mechanics of English. Others viewed SEI as synonymous with specially designed academic instruction in English (SDAIE), also known as sheltered instruction, which features an array of strategies designed to help students of intermediate or higher proficiency access grade-level subject matter (Aha!, 2007).
Notwithstanding the hodgepodge of definitions, mixed messages, and underlying emotions, educators have implemented structured English immersion programs at both the elementary and secondary levels. A framework for effective SEI is emerging that includes the following elements.
Significant amounts of the school day are dedicated to the explicit teaching of the English language, and students are grouped for this instruction according to their level of English proficiency. In Arizona, all ELLs must receive four hours of daily English language development. Other states and districts also provide large amounts of explicit instruction in English. For example, in Massachusetts, students at the lowest levels of English competence receive a minimum of two and one-half hours of daily English language development.
Grouping students for English-language instruction according to their English language ability is an important component of SEI because it enables teachers to effectively design language lessons. True beginners, for example, can benefit greatly from a direct lesson on common nouns, whereas intermediate students need to understand how subordinating conjunctions are used in academic writing.
The English language is the main content of SEI instruction. Academic content plays a supporting, but subordinate, role. The dominant focus is language itself: its rules, uses, forms, and application to daily school and nonschool situations and topics. The operant principle is that students must have a strong understanding of the English language before they can be expected to learn grade-level content.
Massachusetts, for example, tightly defines English language development instruction as “explicit, direct instruction about the English language intended to promote English language acquisition by LEP students and to help them ‘catch up’ to their student peers who are proficient in English” (Massachusetts Department of Education, 2006, p. 2).
Martin Ramirez, principal of a Yuba City, California, high school that has gained national attention for its SEI program, puts the language-content issue this way:
We are charged with giving our ELLs a rigorous core content curriculum
that is comparable to their English-speaking peers. But just putting
them in a science course does not make it a rigorous curriculum.
They will get access when they possess the language skills to be
able to understand the content, and that is the role
of our SEI program.
English is the language of instruction; students and teachers are expected to speak, read, and write in English. Accelerated language programs like SEI are based, in part, on the comprehensible output theory (Swain, 1985). This means that we cannot expect students to advance their language competence mainly through oral comprehension; instead, students get more proficient in English when they actually try to produce increasingly complex English language sentences. All materials and instruction in SEI programs are in English. For this reason, teachers and instructional support staff are not required to be able to speak a language other than English.
Although controversial, the limit on use of students’ home languages keeps the goal of SEI programs clear. One administrator in an Idaho district summarized the rationale: “Unfortunately, our ELD classrooms in the past sometimes featured as much Spanish as English. It was just sending a very confusing message to students and staff.”
Teachers use instructional methods that treat English as a foreign language. Structured English immersion programs reject the notion that teaching in English is the same as teaching English and that complex language skills can be learned through osmosis. SEI’s foreign-language orientation calls for active, direct, and explicit instructional methods. Students have abundant opportunities to learn and produce new and more complex English language structures.
Students learn discrete English grammar skills. In SEI classrooms, teachers try to accelerate students’ natural tendency to acquire language by providing grammatically focused lessons that raise students’ conscious awareness of how English works while engaging them in relevant, age-appropriate learning tasks. Students are overtly taught English pronunciation and listening skills; word building; word-order rules; a wide range of vocabulary (synonyms, antonyms, survival vocabulary, academic word groups); and formulaic expressions not easily explained by grammar analysis (“There you go again”; “What’s up with that?”). The overt teaching of verb tenses — almost nonexistent in most traditional public school English language development programs — is typically the anchor of many of these programs, accounting for up to one-fourth of the total instructional time.
Rigorous time lines are established for students to exit from the program. English language learners have little time to waste. While they are learning English, their English-proficient classmates continue to move ahead. For that reason, most SEI programs are designed to last one academic year. An SEI graduate should possess a foundational understanding of the mechanics, structure, and vocabulary of English that enables him or her to meaningfully access core content.
These SEI program graduates, however, are not finished learning English. Indeed, until students are reclassified as fluent English proficient, they are entitled to support services. In Yuba City, for example, when students exit the SEI program, they are enrolled in a mixture of sheltered and mainstream courses, including one period of advanced English language development. Federal law requires that students who have been reclassified be monitored for a two-year period.
Each of these program elements in some way runs counter to the assumptions and beliefs that have guided ELL program development throughout the last 30 years. In Arizona and elsewhere, advocates of structured English immersion face strong criticism from detractors who argue, among other things, that these programs are segregatory, experimental, not based on research, nonculturally affirming, damaging to students’ self-esteem, and perhaps even illegal (Adams, 2005; Combs, Evans, Fletcher, Parra, & Jimenez, 2005; Krashen, Rolstad, &MacSwan, 2007).
Proponents of SEI maintain that students can learn English faster than many theories suggest, that grouping students by language ability level is necessary for successful lesson design, and that the research support for immersion language-teaching methods and program design principles is solid (Arizona English Language Learners Task Force, 2007; Baker, 1998; Judson & Garcia-Dugan, 2004). As for the question of self-esteem, SEI advocates point out that ELLs are motivated by measurable success in learning the fundamentals of English, as well as by the improved reading comprehension, enhanced writing skills, and higher levels of achievement in core subjects that come from these enhanced language skills.
On the legal front, ballot initiatives requiring SEI programs have been found to comport with federal law. Under the federal framework, as articulated in Castañeda v. Pickard (1981), immersion programs are viewed as “sequential,” in that their goal is to provide foundational English skills before students participate in a full range of academic content courses.
George Washington Elementary School in Madera, California, enrolls more than 500 English language learners in grades K-6. Located in the middle of a Spanish-dominant portion of a town in central California, the school was a magnet bilingual education site for decades — and unfortunately one of the lowest-achieving schools in the district. The school missed state and federal academic performance targets for years, and fewer than 3 percent of ELLs annually were reclassified as fully English proficient.
District data analyses showed that after the first full year of SEI program implementation, the school gained almost 30 points on state test metrics, and English language growth rates tripled in all grades, easily exceeding district and federal targets. The reclassification rate last year quadrupled to 12 percent. Perhaps most significant, almost 50 percent of the school’s intermediate students advanced to the next level of proficiency or met the criteria for being fully English proficient. Before the SEI program, 70 percent of the school’s ELL population regularly showed no English language growth — or even regressed — on the state’s yearly English assessment.
Here’s what an average day looks like for an ELL student at George Washington Elementary School:
- Pronunciation and listening skills, 20 minutes.
- Vocabulary, 30 minutes.
- Verb tense instruction, 20 minutes.
- Sentence structure, 20 minutes.
- Integrated grammar skills application, 20 minutes.
- English reading and writing, 60 minutes.
- Math (specially designed academic instruction in English), 40 minutes.
- Science, social science, P.E., 40 minutes.
At Yuba City High School in Northern California, almost half of the school’s 450 ELLs test at intermediate or below on the state’s language assessment. These students are enrolled in four periods of daily English language development courses: Conversational English and Content Area Vocabulary, English Grammar, English Reading, and English Writing. The school offers three levels for each course; students take an assessment every six weeks that could qualify them to move to the next level. Some students move so quickly that they exit the SEI program in less than a year. After the first year of Yuba City’s SEI program, the proportion of students reclassified as fully English proficient tripled to 15 percent, nearly twice the state average.
Not surprisingly, the decision to implement a structured English immersion program — whether by law or by choice — frequently brings about conflicts over ideology, pedagogy, and the very role of schooling for English language learners in a culturally and linguistically diverse society. Notwithstanding these challenges, an increasing number of schools, districts, and states across the country have seen that structured English immersion can help students gain the English language skills that are crucial for academic success and opportunities beyond school. As Adela Santa Cruz, director of the Office of English Language Acquisition Services for the Arizona Department of Education, said,
We understand that implementing an SEI program requires some
new ways of thinking and teaching, but once teachers and
administrators come to understand SEI, they see it as a positive
and effective vehicle for helping ELLs learn English much faster
than we thought.
Few people would disagree that English language proficiency is necessary for academic success in U.S. schools.
Structured English immersion programs reject the notion that complex language skills can be learned through osmosis.
“We were teaching in English, but not really teaching English.”