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JINGLE ELLS: Alliance for Excellent Education Hosts Final Adolescent Literacy Breakfast for 2005

On December 6, the Alliance for Excellent Education held its fourth and final 2005 breakfast forum on the “Six Key Strategies for Teachers of English Language Learners,” a document created by the New Teacher Center (NTC) at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

At the forum’s outset, Deborah Short, director of language education & academic development at the Center for Applied Linguistics, gave a brief presentation on the explosive growth of English-language learners (ELL) over the last few years. She explained that ELL enrollment has grown more than 80 percent since the 1992 93 school year, versus about a 10 percent increase for total K 12 enrollment. In the 2002 03 school year, there were more than 5.1 million K 12 ELL students in the United States, and that number is expected to continue to grow. In fact, Short said that students whose first language is not English will comprise a greater proportion of school-age children than monolingual English speakers. This growth presents a great challenge to the American school system, since non-native English speakers must typically spend 4 to 7 years learning English to be able to perform as well academically as their native English-speaking peers.

Rain S. Bongolan, NTC’s development coordinator for ELL instruction and adolescent literacy, explained that the six strategies grew out of discussions between new teachers and mentor teachers on how to teach content to ELL students. The strategies are based on research that identifies effective methods for developing English-language learners’ content knowledge, use of the academic language associated with math, literature, history, and science, and basic interpersonal communication skills in English. As such, the six key strategies not only help students develop English as a second language, they also help native speakers learn words such as algorithm or filibuster that are not part of everyday English.

The six strategies are as follows:

  • Vocabulary and language development: Teachers introduce new concepts by discussing vocabulary words key to that concept. For example, they will explore specific academic terms like algorithm and then begin a sequence of lessons on larger math concepts to build the student’s background knowledge.
  • Guided interaction: Teachers structure lessons so students work together to understand what they read-by listening, speaking, reading, and writing collaboratively about the academic concepts in the text.
  • Metacognition and authentic assessment: Teachers model and explicitly teach thinking skills (metacognition) crucial to learning new concepts and use authentic assessments to check students’ understanding.
  • Explicit instruction: Direct teaching of concepts, academic language, and reading comprehension strategies needed to complete classroom tasks.
  • Meaning-based context and universal themes: Teachers take something meaningful from the students’ lives and use it to drive students’ interest in academic concepts.
  • Modeling, graphic organizers, and visuals: The use of a variety of visual aids, including pictures, diagrams, and charts, helps all students-and especially ELL students-easily recognize essential information and its relationship to supporting ideas. Visuals make both the language and the content more accessible to students.

In its work with beginning teachers, the NTC realized that native English-speaking students learning academic language (including words such as algorithm or analogy) faced many of the same challenges as ELL students. Therefore, the teachers began using the six key strategies to help native speakers understand the complex language used in their math, literature, science, and social studies classes.

It is difficult to discern the specific impact of the six key strategies on teacher practice and student achievement, because this tool is only one element in an array of training and assessment tools provided by the New Teacher Center. However, a long-term teacher retention rate as high as 95 percent-compared to a nationwide average around 50 percent-for teachers supported by the NTC model is a testament to the program’s positive impact on the teaching profession. In addition, preliminary findings have shown that the six key strategies have a positive impact on student engagement, literacy skills, and teacher practice.

More information on the New Teacher Center is available at http://www.newteachercenter.org/.

Video from the Alliance event and supplemental materials are available at https://all4ed.org/events/EnglishLanguageLearners.html.

 

CALL FOR PRESENTERS: Alliance Accepting Proposals for 2006 Breakfast Series

 

The Alliance for Excellent Education is pleased to announce that it will extend its popular series of breakfast forums, highlighting successful practices in secondary education, through December 2006. The Alliance’s breakfast forums, which are held four times a year in Washington, D.C., and attract about 150 people per session, offer an opportunity for policymakers, educators, researchers, advocates, the media, and others to learn and ask questions about some of the most successful programs and practices in the nation’s middle and high schools.

Proposals to speak at the 2006 breakfast series are now being accepted and will be reviewed according to the following criteria:

  • Relevance: Whereas previous forums have focused specifically on teaching strategies for struggling adolescent readers, the Alliance now welcomes presentations on a wide range of topics, including adolescent literacy, individual graduation plans and academic counseling, data-driven decisionmaking, including the use of data systems to track achievement and graduation rates, and teacher recruitment and retention.
  • Effectiveness: Proposals should specify how the program has raised student achievement, increased attendance, decreased discipline problems, reduced dropout rates, improved teaching skills, reduced teacher turnover, and/or improved leadership and school climate. Some discussion of research-based design principles would be helpful as well.

Presenters should explain how they plan to illustrate lessons learned from their work, and they should discuss the implementation, sustainability, and scalability of the program, as well as the implications for school, district, state, and/or national education policy.

If interested, please submit a one-page proposal addressing the above criteria to Kathleen Mohr at kmohr@all4ed.org by Monday, January 23, 2006, with the subject line BREAKFAST PROPOSAL. If you have questions, feel free to contact Jeremy Ayers at 202-828-0828.

Selections will be announced and a presentation schedule will be released on February 6, 2006.

More information is available at https://all4ed.org/events.

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