Linda Meyer on Evaluation with English Language Learners (ELLs)
My name is Linda Meyer and I am an applied developmental psychology graduate student at Claremont Graduate University. I am going to provide you with a few basic tips to keep in mind as you are planning an educational evaluation with English Language Learners (ELLs) in PK-12.
Hot Tip: Find out how students were labeled as English Learners. Most students get labeled through a similar process: a home survey sent to parents upon enrollment, followed by a standardized test on English language development, and a score on that test that falls below what has been designated “proficient.” However, policies are often applied inconsistently and inappropriately. These tests may be inappropriate for young students and the school’s criteria may over- or under-identify English Learners. These students then receive inappropriate instruction that negatively impact their academic performance and development. Lawsuits against various states (see Arizona) demonstrate the widespread problems that stem from inappropriate identification and instruction. Before you evaluate the quality of instruction, make sure students are correctly classified and that the instruction matches students’ abilities.
Hot Tip: Consider English Learners’ ages and language exposure. Children at the elementary level are more likely to develop proficiency in a second language than older students because language acquisition ability trails off at about age 12. Students who fail to sufficiently develop English as a second language after a period of years are designated Long-term English Learners and are at higher risk of dropping out of school, among other things. Students who are not exposed often enough to their second language are less likely to become proficient in that language. Consider how often students hear and use English each day. Higher exposure at earlier ages increases the likelihood that they will become English proficient.
Hot Tip: Match your methods to the instruction type. Some instruction types emphasize learning English as quickly as possible, sometimes at the cost of grade level content instruction time. Others emphasize keeping up with the grade level content in whichever language is more proficient, with some moving students toward English-only instruction over time and others moving students toward proficiency in both languages for all content. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, so match your evaluation questions and methods to the instruction type to obtain the most relevant data.
Rad Resource: A comprehensive national study on English Learners’ academic achievement that investigated various instruction types.
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