The Alliance for Excellent Education Releases New Report on Helping ELLs Meet Common Core Standards

The Alliance for Excellent Education Releases New Report on Helping English Language Learners Meet Common Core Standards

The Alliance for Excellent Education recently released a new brief, The Role of Language and Literacy in College- and Career-Ready Standards: Rethinking Policy and Practice in Support of English Language Learners. It states that by 2020, more than half of all public school students will likely have a non–English-speaking background. Nevertheless, in all college- and career-ready standards, including the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), English is embedded throughout. Thus, in order to meet these standards, the growing proportion of students who are English language learners (ELLs) must possess and be able to demonstrate an understanding of not only the subject matter being considered but also of the English language. This could be a daunting task for many.  

As stated in the brief, “In the emerging workplace, students must be able to engage with complex texts, communicate effectively, think critically, and apply what they learn to novel settings.” To that end, the new college- and career-ready standards offer promise. This brief describes the implementation of the new standards, with a focus on the implications for ELLs. It discusses the challenges of language acquisition, the importance to learners of connecting language proficiency to rigorous content standards, highlights of several initiatives currently under way to examine the language demands embedded in the new standards, and changes needed at the secondary school level as well as recommendations for state and local policymakers. 

The brief notes that emerging technologies should enable teachers to extend instructional time for ELLs. Digital tools “can increase access to content anywhere and anytime, provide approaches to learning vocabulary and content, support language acquisition, expand practice opportunities, and deliver timely feedback.” The brief further notes that states bear the “primary responsibility” for ensuring that teachers and school leaders can provide ELLs with effective language and content-area learning, and it offers recommendations that are focused at the state level in the following four areas. First, in regard to states ensuring “robust implementation of college- and career-ready standards through close alignment, assessments, and professional development with these standards;” second, in the area of strengthening teacher preparation; third, in regard to improving the use of data by states, districts, and schools; and last, in the creation of support systems targeted to meet the needs of students who are ELLs.