A recent poll found that 30% of all teachers and 41% of principals are closely following the implementation of the CCSS. Are you one of them, and do you feel that your needs are being served as a teacher of ELs? Some teachers of ELs have correctly noted that the CCSS website does not provide much guidance on this topic. The site directs teachers to a two-page PDF prepared by theNational Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). This document states that most ELs will require additional time, appropriate instructional support, aligned assessments, and national language proficiency standards that teachers can use in conjunction with the ELA standards.
If you are following the news on ED Week, it seems like aligning the Common Core with these language proficiency standards is a priority right now. On this post, I want to suggest that the lack of such standards is the chief impediment to the EL support for teachers that that so far has been absent from the Common Core. You may wonder how is this possible. National language proficiency standards are not yet available because the government has left the task of developing them to the individual states. Some states have them, but most don't. Twenty three states have joined a consortium that has developed such standards. The World Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA) consortium has developed language proficiency standards, and isrevising them to align with the Common Core.
But revision may prove too expensive for states like California, with their own language proficiency standards and large numbers of English Learners. And joining WIDA may also be expensive, because states pay the consortium for each EL student. Then there are states like Texas, and several US territories with large EL populations like Puerto Rico that have not adopted the Common Core standards. Perhaps to help with this situation, the Carnegie Foundation has awarded one million to a Standford-led groupto develop language proficiency standards that could be used nationally.
So what does this mean for teachers of ELs? Depending on the state where you live, you may eventually get to try out curricula built with Common Core and language proficiency standards in alignment. Or you may have to wait until such standards are adopted nationwide. And I don't know what states that have not adopted the Common Core will do. However, I still am going to argue that teachers of ELs should not wait for a state-wide move to think about advocating for their EL students. In some states, teachers are already developing professional development to support other teachers with the Common Core standards. If this is what's happening at your state, are teachers of ELs a part of those discussions? And if your state has not adopted the Common Core, how would nationwide language proficiency standards affect its adopted curricula and assessment?
If you have the opportunity to participate in any district-wide groups leading these efforts, you should. What you learn can help others, even in other states. Even if you are not part of your district's leadership, we need to stay informed and help others think about the implications. Teachers of ELs could clarify what college readiness means for long term-English learners, or for students who immigrated in their teens. We could talk about the need for choice and the importance of the resulting engagement in eliciting language. We could show them the differentiation that is integral to the instruction of students at various stages of language acquisition. I can think of many more topics that might be overlooked without our participation.