English Language Learners

Throughout the United States, English language learners (ELLs) continue to be a growing population among public school students. For the 2009-2010 school year for all grades, 6% (143,990) of the South Central Comprehensive Center (SC3) region's students were ELLs, and among the Central Comprehensive Center (C3) region's students, 7% (168,089) were ELLs. The goal of the C3 and SC3 ELL initiative is to provide targeted technical assistance aligned with ED priorities with the goal of increasing the academic achievement of ELLs.

Hot Topics

The information provided below was originally shared via e-mail with ELL practitioners in the Center's region. It is provided here as an easy reference and to serve the wider public audience.

Dear friends,

The Central Comprehensive Center (C3) and South Central Comprehensive Center (SC3) at the University of Oklahoma are committed to offering you continuous support in your efforts to provide high quality instruction to students from diverse cultures and linguistic backgrounds. School districts are transitioning to the Common Core State Standards to assure each student will graduate fully prepared for college or career. In this first email for our professional email list, we will focus on the issue identified from the surveys as being of most concern: How do we increase motivation in minority students to improve their academic achievement?

Minority students need to overcome hard challenges on a daily basis. Developing strong performance values is essential for these children to ensure they develop skills that build and/or strengthen their self-confidence, motivation to learn, and self-perception to a level that makes them perform to high standards regardless of differences in language, culture, socio-economic status, race, color, age, or any other dissimilarity as compared to their majority counterparts. Grit and resilience are some of the performance values that these students must develop. Teachers and schools have the power to instill such skills. Teachers need to have grit themselves to do whatever it takes to turn education around and to accomplish this goal implies hard work as well as their own modern version of true grit and resilience. Teaching it and living it are now front and center in the education conversation. The following are strategies offered by Vicki Davis in her 2014 Edutopia blog post titled, "True Grit: The Best Measure of Success and How to Teach It."

  • Read books about grit
  • Talk about grit and resilience
  • Share examples
  • Help students develop a growth mindset
  • Refrain problems
  • Find a framework
  • Live grittily
  • Foster safe circumstances that encourage grit
  • Help students develop intentional habits
  • Acknowledge the sacrifice grit implies

To read Davis's full blog post, click here: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/true-grit-measure-teach-success-vicki-davis

For an additional resource, read the 2013 report from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology titled, "Promoting grit, tenacity and perseverance: Critical factors for success in the 21st century" click here: http://www.ed.gov/edblogs/technology/files/2013/02/OET-Draft-Grit-Report-2-17-13.pdf

Another suggested reading is chapter 2 of the book Increasing Prevention Effectiveness edited by Hansen, Giles, and Fearnow. Chapter 2 is authored by Bonnie Benard and is entitled, "From Risk to Resiliency: What Schools Can Do."

Benard says, "It's how teachers do what they do that counts. Teachers' beliefs in innate capacity start the change process." Benard reports that for best practices educators should do the following:

  • Use caring relationships: show loving support, respect, and compassion
  • Have high expectations: believe in the learners' innate resilience and self-righting capacities, use challenge-with-support messages, provide guidance without coercion, and be strengths-focused.
  • Give opportunities for participation and contribution: give learners opportunities for being responsible for self and others, for reflection and critical thinking, and for mastery learning and creative expression

To read entire chapter, click here: http://www.tanglewood.net/projects/teachertraining/book_of_readings/benard.pdf

I hope you find this information of interest. I would like to hear back from you on this initiative by letting us know if you find this is type of communication useful for your professional development and technical assistance efforts. Let me know if there is any question or topic on which you would like to receive specific succinct information and links to expand on it. Please feel free to invite additional professionals to our email list.

Update! Motivation Matters: Engaging Students, Creating Learners

Dear friends:

Continuing with our online support, the topic of today's email is about CULTURE OF UNIVERSAL ACHIEVEMENT. Please feel free to share this review of the literature with your districts and schools.

The school culture and climate defines not only the quality and character of the school life but it also determines how it reflects in the surrounding community. The perception that each member of the school community has or feels about their personal safety, interpersonal relationships, teaching, learning, expectations, and processes definitely influence the outcomes positively or negatively.

The growing numbers of diverse student population in our public schools calls for revisiting the school mission and purpose to focus on establishing a school culture of universal achievement where the principal, students, faculty and staff share common core values and have a clear understanding of what they should accomplish.

A school culture of universal achievement refers to a place where faculty, staff, students and parents feel safe, respected, accepted, with a sense of belonging, and cared for, and where everybody conveys the same message of excellence in academics, social relationships and behavior. Establishing a culture of universal achievement entails effort, planning, commitment, communication, time, dedication, teamwork between principal and teachers, and setting high expectations for everybody, but most important, driven by example.

Suggestions elicited from research include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Mission and purpose of the school is developed jointly by principals and teachers based on their vision of how they want their school to be.
  • Explicitly communicate and nurture the set of values that express high expectations for achievement, character, and behavior, so everybody knows what needs to be done.
  • A Code of Character is posted along the school emphasizing core values as perseverance, respect and commitment to quality work and is nurtured at all times.

Principals need to avoid the following:

  • Generating a culture of pressure, tension, and competition.
  • Mandating to teach to the middle as its instructional policy.
  • Isolating adults from one another and avoiding professional collaboration.
  • Denying opportunities for effective professional development for faculty and staff.
  • Parents and educators blaming each other.

To learn more about this topic, you can access these resources: Alford, Ivy. Establishing a Culture of High Expectations. Southern Regional Education Board. PowerPoint. http://www.connectionsproject.ilstu.edu/HSTWresources/04-ia-highexp.pdf

Turnaround Schools Create Culture of Achievement. Expeditionary Learning. May 2011. http://elschools.org/best-practices/turnaround-schools-create-culture-achievement

Ferrer, L. Elements for a culture of achievement for all. http://www.scribd.com/doc/10487527/Elements-of-a-Culture-of-Achievement-for-All

Developing and Assessing School Culture A New Level of Accountability for Schools. Position Paper of the Character Education Partnership. May 2010. http://www.rucharacter.org/file/DevelopingandAssessingSchoolCulture_Final[1].pdf

Macneil, Prater, and & Steve Busch. The effects of school culture and climate on student achievement. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 12.1 (2009): 73-84. http://donnieholland.wiki.westga.edu/file/view/school+culture+climate+%26+achievement.pdf

We appreciate your comments on this initiative. If you have a topic that you would like to receive specific information on, be sure to let us know and also send any weblinks you've found. Please feel free to invite new members to join our email list.

"It' is how teachers do what they do that counts. Teachers' beliefs in innate capacity start the change process" (Benard, 2000).

Dear friends:

The Central and South Central Comprehensive Centers at the University of Oklahoma want to continue providing support to our state education agencies as they look for innovative approaches to close the achievement gap. Information on some of the most current trends to improve the academic achievement of ALL students can be found below.

When school administrators, teachers, and staff members believe every single child can experience success and pleasure in learning, personalizing learning may be a successful method for students and teachers to use. To reach particular students, teachers devote time to learning the strengths, interests, and limitations of their students. Teachers also devote time to getting prepared either independently or jointly with other colleagues and find ways to develop a plan for each student based on his/her unique learning needs. Team-based professional learning, combined with some one-on-one supports and faculty-wide learning experiences generate a philosophy of continuing adult learning, which can result in fueling sustained improvement of student learning.

What are the implications? Personalized learning implies a strong commitment by educators to engage in a series of changes as they build their capacity to move into a personalized learning system. In this model, each student becomes partner of his or her learning. Each student knows what is expected, and each student is also responsible to track his/her learning. The appropriate amount of time to learn is allotted for the student based on data on his/her strengths and limitations. Having a deep understanding of each student allows the teacher to develop a plan that includes specific objectives that consider learning styles and focus on what the student does not know. Parents receive a copy of the detailed plan in writing that includes their participation responsibilities. Once a district/school commits to the implementation of this instructional model and adjustments of schedule are made, calendar or student grouping can take place, and any other necessary policy changes can be considered.

Essential elements of personalized learning include the following:

  • Flexibility in study time and place
  • Modifying teacher's role as a facilitator
  • Project-based learning encompassing the different content areas
  • Student learning based on unique needs
  • Assessment through competency-based mastering
  • Access to technology
  • Continuous professional development

To learn more about this topic, you can also access these resources:

Are Personalized Learning Environments the Next Wave of K–12 Education Reform? American Institutes for Research. August 2013.

Wolf, Mary Ann. Innovate to Educate: System [Re]Design for Personalized Learning. Software and Information Industry Association. 2010

Personalizing the Classroom Experience. Project Tomorrow, 2012. May 2012.

Please remember I am open to your suggestions on specific topics of interest. The content of this email is also available on our C3 and SC3 websites' ELL Portal under the "Hot Topics" tab at http://www.c3ta.org/topics/ELL.html or http://www.sc3ta.org/topics/ELL.html.

Dear friends,

The South Central Comprehensive Center (SC3) and Central Comprehensive Center (C3) are committed to offering continuous support in your efforts to provide high quality instruction to ALL students. We understand that keeping updated with best research-based practices is difficult due to the overwhelming workload you all have. Periodically, we will be sending you concise information on topics of interest with links to the complete research articles that provide more extensive information. Please let us know if you have issues/topics/literature you want us to review to aide you in gathering useful information you can put into practice with districts and schools.

Students coming from homes where English is not their first language are especially challenged because they must learn a new language parallel with academic content. However, it is important to be aware that those children bring with them a broad set of educational experiences in several areas, which in many cases, may differ from what we consider necessary academic content in our public schools. If teachers are able to assess how well each student is doing in any given area at any time, formative assessment used regularly is considered as one of the most effective tools to improve learning.

Benefits of using formative assessment as part of the instruction plan include, but are not limited to

  • Involving students in their own learning as it clarifies goals, and expected outcomes;
  • Encouraging dialogue related to learning between teacher and peers;
  • Providing students with opportunities to assess themselves and understand how to improve;
  • Providing information to adjust instruction and offering real feedback on areas of need; and
  • Developing positive motivation while reaffirming the student's self-esteem.

To learn more about formative assessment best practices and implementation please search the following links.

Duckor, B. (2014). Formative Assessment in Seven Good Moves in Educational Leadership, March 2014 (Vol. 71, #6, p. 28-32). Available at http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar14/vol71/num06/toc.aspx

Keeley, P & Tobey R. (2010). Formative Assessment Overview. Uncovering Students Ideas. Available at http://uncoveringstudentideas.org/about/overview

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Position Paper (2012) . Formative Assessment. Available at http://www.nctm.org/formative.

National Council of Teachers of English (2010). Fostering High-Quality Formative Assessment. Available at http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Resources/Journals/CC/0201-sep2010/CC0201PolicyBrief.pdf

Practical techniques to implement Formative Assessment http://info.nwea.org/FY2012WinterCampaignKLTWebinar2v2_On-demandThankYou.html

Ratzel, M. (2011). Best Practice: Formative Assessment Done Right .Education Week Teacher. Available at http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2011/03/02/tln_formative.html

Dear Friends,

C3 and SC3 are committed to offering continuous support in your efforts to provide high quality instruction to students with diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds to assure every student graduates college and career ready. We understand that keeping updated with best research-based practices can be difficult due to your overwhelming workloads. Consequently, we continue offering resources through C3 and SC3's ELL Professional Email List. This time, we are sharing research-based information on Setting Learning and Personal Goals as a way to develop non-cognitive skills. As always, we are open to your recommendations on the issues you want us to review and gather so you can put this useful information into practice with districts and schools.

As we continue into the 21st century, educators are becoming more aware of the need to develop cognitive and non-cognitive skills in students to prepare them to succeed in today's world. But how can this be accomplished? Teachers in schools are overwhelmed with a broad range of tasks to fulfill that include adjusting their instructional practice to achieve rigorous standards and analyzing data on a continuous basis to lead their instruction in classes with students coming from diverse backgrounds, levels of education, cultural differences, and more. Additionally, employers seek individuals who are flexible and adaptable, with initiative and self-direction skills besides thinking and content knowledge.

A good way to start developing these non-cognitive skills is by teaching students to set Learning and Personal Goals. Goal setting is a powerful way to help students focus their efforts on specific objectives. Research studies in different disciplines has proved goal setting improves performance because it regulates effort, increases persistence, and thus obtains a high level of efficacy, making goal-setting a useful tool to get the most out of a student's potential. It is important to consider the five requisites that make a goal effective, sometimes framed as "SMART" goals.

The following are the characteristics of SMART goals:

  • Specific: It is important for the student to have a clear idea of what he/she will strive to accomplish.
  • Measurable: Goals need to be tractable to check progress and determine when the goal is achieved.
  • Attainable: Goals need to be realistic and in reach for the student to attain.
  • Relevant: Goals should not be too difficult nor too easy, since the overall purpose of setting goals is to improve.
  • Time-bound: To maintain the interest in reaching the goal, it is important to set a time limit.

One important recommendation is to explain to students they should not feel discouraged if they do not achieve the desired outcome in the expected time. As everything in life, students should know that the determination to keep trying is what will help them to improve. Learning and improvement are the crucial purposes to set goals.

To learn more about how to teach students to set goals, you can access these resources.

Please remember this email will be added to the English Language Learner Portal accessible 24/7 through our websites at http://www.c3ta.org and http://www.sc3ta.org.