How many school-aged English learners are there in the U.S?
Based on state-reported data, it is estimated that 5,318,164 English Learners (ELs) were enrolled in public schools (pre-K through Grade 12) for the 2007-2008 school year. This number represents approximately 10.7% of total public school student enrollment. Among the states, California enrolled the largest number of public school EL students, with 1,526,036, followed by Texas (701,799), Florida (234,934), New York (213,000), and Illinois (175,454). The outlying areas had the highest overall percentages of EL students, with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Marshall Islands identifying approximately 100% of their students as English Learners.
What is the truth about second language acquisition? Is it true that the more time students spend receiving English instruction, the faster they will learn it?
Students who receive some native language instruction achieve at higher levels in English than students who do not receive any native language instruction. Research has shown that it takes 2 to 3 years for new English learners to learn social language and it takes 5 to 7 years for them to learn academic language. In addition, researchers, just as August & Hakuta (1997) have shown that using and having a strong foundation in one's native language is more conducive to English learning.
What role does culture have when working, teaching and serving ELs with disabilities?
Schools that do not take into account the linguistic, cultural, and other background characteristics of English learners and simply adapt services that have been designed for English speakers "cannot provide effective special education services" for English learners (Baca, 2002). In classes where English Learners with special needs are successful, teachers draw heavily on student's prior knowledge, linking what students already know to what they need to learn.
What does the research say about best practices for English learners?
- Language must be comprehensible for it to be learned. Immersion is most effective when it is connected to known and purposeful English comprehension strategies (Krashen, 1996).
- Students' verbal skills will appear before true proficiency in academic content emerges (Hakuta, Butler, & Witt, 2000).
- The acquisition of academic English skills requires a period of five to seven years (Cummins, 1989).
- mmersion models that provide short-term language support to achieve proficiency is at odds with what we know to be true about the language acquisition process (Barrera, 2006).
- Simultaneous primary and second language instruction helps to increase new language comprehension, as students are able to make sense of contextual knowledge while they learn both new language and new content. (Ramirez et al., 1991).
Why Do Language Policies Matter?
As the U.S. population becomes more racially and ethnically diverse, schools in both urban and rural areas are experiencing changes in student demographics at a remarkable rate. Language policies that are being enacted in states and districts, determine the degree to which students will succeed in a global economy. We cannot afford to bank on English as the global language.