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Research Reports

Language Acquisition

Assessment Considerations for Young English Language Learners Across Different Levels of Accountability

Author: Linda M. Espinosa and Michael L. López; The National Early Childhood Accountability Task Force and First 5 LA

Summary: A recent report prepared for The National Early Childhood Accountability Task Force looks specifically at assessment for three- and four-year-old English language learners in early education programs. "Assessment Considerations for Young English Language Learners Across Different Levels of Accountability" examines the unique role of assessment in early childhood education in the context of young English language learners' diverse backgrounds and needs. The authors discuss assessment at four levels of accountability: assessment for instructional improvement, assessment for identification of special needs, assessment for program accountability, and assessment for research and accountability. The report also includes an overview of current ELL assessment measures and current ELL assessment strategies.

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Tags: Differentiated Instruction; Language Proficiency;

Target Population: Preschool

Research Questions the Report Poses:

  • What are the implications of the nascent linguistic and cultural diversity among young children on dual language and literacy development during preschool years?
  • What are the main considerations for young ELLs across the different levels of accountability?

Findings:

  • Sequential bilingual children may have somewhat different patterns of development than monolinguals in certain aspects of language development in the short term. This may include vocabulary, early literacy skills, and interpersonal communication.
  • It is important for early childhood educators to understand that code switching (switching languages for portions of a sentence) and languages mixing (inserting single items from one language into another) are normal aspects of second language.
  • There is an enormous degree of variability and diversity of young children (beyond ethnic, to include English exposure, poverty, etc)

Policy Recommendations:

  • The child must be assessed in the home language as well as English. Knowing how the child is progressing in the home language is important for long-term academic success and educational planning.
  • Parents and other family members must be included in the assessment process to share information about the child's language competence.
  • It is recommended that all children who speak a language other than English in the home receive an Individualized Language Plan (ILP), with information on: current language competence, strategies for including family activities and community resources.
  • Assessment information should be frequently collected and reviewed by all the teaching staff to monitor changes in language and overall development.
  • All procedures, assessments, and results should be reviewed for cultural bias and accuracy by a person familiar with that cultural group and language, and if possible a bilingual educator.

Linda M. Espinosa and Michael L. López. (2007). Assessment Considerations for Young English Language Learners Across Different Levels of Accountability. The National Early Childhood Accountability Task Force and First 5 LA. Retrieved from: http://www.pewtrusts.org/uploadedFiles/wwwpewtrustsorg/Reports/Pre-k_education/Assessment%20for%20Young%20ELLs-Pew%208-11-07-Final.pdf.

Bilingual Effects on Cognitive and Linguistic Development: Role of Language, Cultural Background, and Education

Author: Barac, R. & Bialystok, E.

Summary: In this study, researchers compared 104 six-year-old children belonging to 4 groups (English monolinguals, Chinese-English bilinguals, French-English bilinguals, Spanish-English bilinguals) on a series of tasks in order to determine the effect of bilingualism on development. Taking into account language, cultural background, and the language of schooling, researchers examined the outcomes of language tasks and cognitive tasks across the groups. They found that bilingualism had a positive effect on executive control tasks, but that the performance on the language task varied depending on educational experience and the similarity between the two languages.

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Tags: Bilingual Instruction; Bilingualism / Biliteracy; Language of Instruction; Language Proficiency; Transfer of Literacy Skills; Vocabulary;

Target Population: Elementary School

Research Questions the Report Poses:

  • What are the bilingual effects on development?
  • What roles do educational background, language background, and the relationship between the two languages have on development?
  • How do the effects of bilingualism on cognitive and linguistic development differ?

Barac, R. & Bialystok, E. (2012). Bilingual Effects on Cognitive and Linguistic Development: Role of Language, Cultural Background, and Education. Child Development.

Children in Immigrant Families: Ensuring Opportunity for Every Child in America

Author: Cervantes, W.D. & Hernandez, D.J., First Focus: Foundation for Child Development.

Summary:

This policy brief draws on key indicators from the Foundation for Child Development Child Well-Being Index (CWI), as well as additional data, to highlight both similarities and differences in the circumstances of children in immigrant and native-born families. Additional statistics that pertain particularly to the situation of children in immigrant families, namely citizenship and language skills, are also provided. Finally, this brief discusses recently passed federal legislation as it relates to children in immigrant families and points to policies that will ensure that we as a country are securing our future by providing opportunity for every child.

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Target Population: K-12

Research Questions the Report Poses: How can we secure our future as a country by providing opportunity for every child?

Findings:

  • Children in immigrant families are less likely than children in native-born families to be enrolled in Pre-Kindergarten (45.0 % versus 49.8 %).
  • The typical child of an immigrant lives in a family with a median income of $46,000, which is more than one-fifth less than the median income of $58,000 of the typical child in a native-born family.
  • About one-in-five children of immigrants (18 %) is an English language learner and about one-in-four (26 %) lives in a linguistically isolated household, where no one over the age of 13 speaks English exclusively or very well.
  • Thirty percent of children in immigrant families have an unauthorized parent, including 6 percent of children in immigrant families who are themselves unauthorized.
  • Given that children of immigrants represent one of the fastest growing segments of the U.S. child population, it is imperative that policies aimed at improving outcomes for children also address the specific access barriers and needs of children in immigrant families.

Policy Recommendations:

  • The recently passed Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act both include important provisions that will improve access to critical programs for vulnerable, low-income children, including children of immigrants.
  • As future legislation impacting children is considered, it will be important for policymakers to specifically address the access barriers and needs of children in immigrant families. Equally critical will be the need for Congress to prevent children from being unnecessarily harmed by immigration legislation.
  • A reauthorized ESEA must include legislation across the board that specifically addresses the academic challenges facing children of immigrants while simultaneously building on their strengths.
  • All children growing up in America should have the opportunity to achieve their full potential regardless of immigration status, and policies and programs aimed at serving vulnerable children should also be extended to unauthorized children.
  • Ultimately, a comprehensive immigration reform bill will be needed to fix a system that is fundamentally broken.
  • It is critical that Congress preserve the inalienable rights of children enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment.

To order a hard copy of the report, contact:
Foundation for Child Development 295 Madison Avenue, 40th Floor New York, NY 10017

Cervantes, W.D. & Hernandez, D.J. (2011). Children in Immigrant Families: Ensuring Opportunity for Every Child in America. First Focus: Foundation for Child Development.

Diverse Children: Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration in America's New Non-Majority Generation

Author: The Foundation for Child Development: Hernandez, D. & Napierala, J.S.

Summary:

By 2018, it is projected that over half of all children in the U.S. will be minority, non-white children. The increasing diversity of the population makes socioeconomic and educational disparities between racial/ethnic groups all the more striking. Poverty and unemployment disproportionately affect black and Hispanic families, putting them at a social and educational disadvantage.

To address these issues, the authors of this study, published by the Foundation for Child Development, investigated how race/ethnicity, parent immigration status, and home language contribute to children's social, economic, physical, and educational well-being. In the process, they also found that children across the U.S., regardless of background, are performing at critically low levels on fourth grade reading and math assessments. Proposed policy reforms are outlined, including investing in the nation's children by increasing their access to high quality pre-kindergarten and health care.

Note: This is the first report to discuss child well-being across White, Hispanic, Black, and Asian race-ethnic groups, while also considering the possible effect of parents' status as immigrants or non-immigrants.

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Tags: Language Proficiency; Parent Involvement and Outreach / PTA; Reading; Rights, Parents; Rights, Students; Struggling Readers;

Target Population: Hispanic, Asian, black, and white children from immigrant and non-immigrant families

Research Questions the Report Poses:

  • Considering health, economic, social, and educational factors, what is known about the well-being of children in the United States?
  • How does this vary according to race/ethnicity and immigration status?
  • What federal reforms should be made to improve the lives of these children?

Findings:

  1. While one fourth of the nation's children have parents who are immigrants, 89% of these children are American citizens.
  2. Children of immigrants are just as likely to have a parent with stable employment and more likely (than those with U.S.-born parents) to live in a two-parent family, have been born at a healthy weight, and survive their first year of life. At the same time, they are less likely to attend pre-kindergarten and have health insurance.
  3. At 19% and 15%, respectively, Hispanic and black children with immigrant parents are far less likely to have health insurance. Additionally, they have the highest child mortality rate and are more likely than their Asian and white counterparts to live in poverty and/or have an unemployed parent.
  4. Only half of eligible children nationwide were enrolled in a pre-kindergarten program. Those with U.S.-born parents were more likely to attend, and Hispanic children from immigrant families were the least likely to be enrolled.
  5. In households where the primary language was not English, 83% of both black and Hispanic fourth graders could not read proficiently. For white children in this category, 65% scored below proficient in reading, as did 51% Asian children, even in English-speaking households. In math, 35-84% of fourth graders in all racial/ethnic groups were below proficient.

Policy Recommendations:

  1. Expand access to high-quality early childhood education. Establish a cohesive curriculum spanning pre-kindergarten to third grade to develop children's literacy skills before the fourth grade.
  2. At the federal and state level, ensure that all children, including the roughly one million who are undocumented, are covered by health insurance.
  3. Maintain and strengthen economic and social services such as tax provisions and credits, temporary assistance, and nutrition programs  for immigrant as well as low-income non-immigrant families.
  4. Fund English literacy programs for immigrant parents to allow them to pursue employment opportunities and communicate with classroom teachers about their child's progress and needs.

To order a hard copy of the report, contact:
Foundation for Child Development 295 Madison Avenue, 40th floor New York, NY 10017 Phone: (212) 867-5777 Fax: (212) 867-5844 www.fcd-us.org

Hernandez, D. & Napierala, J.S.(2013). Diverse children: Race, ethnicity, and immigration in America's new non-majority generation. New York, NY: The Foundation for Child Development.

Educating Struggling Learners: Reflections on Lessons Learned about Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

Author: Kurizaki, V. University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes.

Summary:

Presented here is a first person account of the opportunities and challenges of the pathways to success from the front lines of inclusive reform. In this paper, the author reviews the work that the Hawaii Department of Education (HIDOE) completed in developing progress maps. This work demonstrated avenues or routes that students took to access the content of mathematics and reading. She then reflects on the activity of the GSEG-funded project, offering a personal perspective on the formal research findings documented by Karin Hess (2011). Finally, she offers her reflections on the local implementation of the project products and processes, as well as lessons that we learned throughout the project.

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Target Population: All

Research Questions the Report Poses: How can educators improve the learning skills of struggling readers?

Findings:

  • To ensure that the curriculum is taught as it was intended in the classroom, teachers need to have a deep understanding of that content. They also need a repertoire of instructional strategies to respond to student work used to judge learners' progress.
  • Instructional adjustments or accommodations, tailored to their learners, are possible when teachers are clear on the learning targets and have a sound understanding about how their students learn and show progress over time.
  • State test results showed grade 8 students were flat-lined, averaging 36% of the disadvantaged students scoring proficient on the state test over six school years. After one year of engaging in a self-reflection protocol and process in addition to collaborative PLCs, there was a rise to 47% of this subgroup scoring at the proficient level.
  • However, opportunities for teachers to reflect on their own instructional practices, committing to trying new strategies, followed by more self- and collaborated-reflections on the effects on students, seem to be one of the biggest benefits of the various PLC discussions.
    • Policy Recommendations:
      N/A

      To order a hard copy of the report, contact:
      National Center on Educational Outcomes University of Minnesota • 207 Pattee Hall 150 Pillsbury Dr. SE • Minneapolis, MN 55455

      Kurizaki, V. (2011). Educating struggling learners: Reflections on lessons learned about curriculum, instruction, and assessment (Synthesis Report 86).University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes.

Enabling Academic Success For Secondary Students with Limited Formal Schooling: A Study of the Haitian Literacy Program at Hyde Park High School in Boston

Author: Walsh, C.E., Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory: A Program of The Education Alliance at Brown University.

Summary: This publication addresses this concern by documenting a successful literacy program in one Boston public school: the Haitian Literacy Program at Hyde Park High School. In operation since 1988, the Haitian Literacy Program is the longest-running high school literacy program in the region for bilingual students with limited formal education and the only such program that we are aware of in the nation for Haitians. Through a case study approach, the publication examines students' educational success and the program traits that staff and students believe have enabled academic achievement, high school graduation, and higher education participation.

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Target Population: High School

Research Questions the Report Poses: How can teachers design programs that will enable the academic success of English Language Learners?

Findings:

  • While few cities and states collect data on these students, informal estimates indicate that 10-15% of bilingual students in many urban school districts may lack or have major gaps in their formal schooling.
  • According to some school officials in Boston, the number of middle and high school-aged students with limited formal schooling arriving from rural and/or war-torn areas of the Caribbean, Asia, Africa, and Latin America may be anywhere from 40-75%.
  • The most crucial area for improvement is the need for stronger central office support, including better coordination and communication among the central office, the school, and the program; and increased funding for staff, materials, and material development. A second area for improvement is the need to designate program teachers through a specialized position that requires specific preparation and/or training.
  • For students who had no more than several years of formal schooling before entering high school, the fact that at least half of these students graduate and 39% of these graduates go on to college shows success.
  • Accepting that there are students in secondary schools across the nation who lack literacy and basic skills because of limited schooling is a first step in addressing the "all children" agenda. The second and even more crucial step is developing and putting into practice program structures and teaching approaches that best serve the learning potential and unique realities of these students.

Policy Recommendations:
N/A

To order a hard copy of the report, contact:
222 Richmond Street, Suite 300 Providence, RI 02903-4226

Walsh, C.E., (1999). Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory: A Program of The Education Alliance at Brown University. Enabling Academic Success For Secondary Students with Limited Formal Schooling: A Study of the Haitian Literacy Program at Hyde Park High School in Boston.

Ensuring Academic Success for English Learners

Author: Laurie Olson, UC Linguistic Minority Research Institute

Summary: This report highlights nine elements of a strong academic program for ELLs based on three decades of research. Recommended best practices include accessible preschool programs, support for newcomers of all ages, and a focus on English language development.

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Tags: Books and Other Reading Materials; Curriculum; Differentiated Instruction; Intervention; Language Proficiency; Motivation; Parent Involvement and Outreach / PTA; Reading;

Target Population: Preschool, Elementary, Middle, High School

Research Questions the Report Poses: What strategies or programs can educators adopt to create schools in which ELLs learn and thrive?

Findings:
A comprehensive system of schooling for ELLS includes the following nine elements:

  • High quality and accessible preschool education
  • Supports for newcomers to meet needs of transition
  • A comprehensive program of English Language development
  • A program providing full access to challenging curriculum
  • High quality instruction and materials
  • Inclusive and affirming school climate
  • Valid, comprehensive, and useful assessments
  • Strong family and community partnerships
  • Schools structured to meet the particular needs of English learners.

Policy Recommendations:
Recommendations include:

  • Invest in building a qualified educator workforce;
  • Build a meaningful accountability system for English learners;
  • Assure that educators have the materials they need to deliver high quality English Language Development;
  • Demonstrate new models of successful schools for English learners

To order a hard copy of the report, contact:

University of California

Linguistic Minority Research Institute

4722 South Hall

Santa Barbara, CA 93106-3220

Olsen, L. (2006). Ensuring Academic Success for English Learners. University of California: Linguistic Minority Research Institute.

Getting Ready for Reading: Early Phoneme Awareness and Phonics Teaching Improves Reading and Spelling in Inner-city Second Language Learners

Author: M. Stuart

Summary: Previous studies demonstrate that phoneme awareness training, particularly when combined with letter–sound teaching, results in improved reading and spelling development. This study builds upon those findings by including children learning English as a second language, who have typically been excluded from previous studies.

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Tags: Instructional Programs; Phonics; Phonological Awareness;

Target Population: Preschool, Elementary

Research Questions the Report Poses:

  • Is it possible to accelerate phonemic awareness and skills in ELL children by using a specified whole class teaching procedure ("Phonics Handbook") for 12 weeks during the first year of formal schooling?
  • If so, does this acceleration lead to more successful development of reading and spelling skills at the end of the second year at school?

Findings:

  • Early, structured, focused and rapid teaching of phoneme segmentation and blending skills and of grapheme–phoneme correspondences does accelerate development of these skills and acquisition of this knowledge in 5–year–olds, including ELLs.
  • Acquiring these skills and developing reading and writing abilities early (at beginning of formal schooling, if not before) gives students a long–term advantage in school.
  • Most children can very rapidly acquire the concepts and knowledge taught, and can do so without the necessity for small–group teaching.
  • Because the materials used here were designed by a teacher for teachers to use, the positive results demonstrate that teachers need very little training or support to use these materials to good effect.

Policy Recommendations:
None given

Stuart, M. (1999). Getting ready for reading: early phoneme awareness and phonics teaching improves reading and spelling in inner–city second language learners. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 69, 587-605.

How Long Does It Take English Language Learners to Attain Proficiency?

Author: University of California Linguistic Minority Research Institute/ Kenji Hakuta, Yuko Goto Butler, and Daria Witt

Summary: This report compiles findings related to how long it takes English language learners to become proficient in speaking English and how long it takes them to master enough English to be successful in classrooms where all academic content is in English. The report draws on findings from four schools. Two schools are in the San Francisco Bay area and two schools are in Canada. The authors collect their own data from the California schools and rely on previous research for the Canadian schools.

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Tags: Comprehension; Language Proficiency; Transfer of Literacy Skills;

Target Population: Preschool, Elementary, Middle, High School

Research Questions the Report Poses: How long does it take English language learners to develop oral proficiency and academic proficiency in English?

Findings:

  • Rapid English language acquisition is unrealistic.
  • The two California districts used in the sample are considered the most successful teaching English to limited English proficient students. In these high performing districts:
    • Oral proficiency takes 3 to 5 years to develop; and
    • Academic English proficiency takes 4 to 7 years to develop

Policy Recommendations:
California should begin a longitudinal survey to track the normative development of ELL students.

To order a hard copy of the report, contact:
The University of California Linguistic Minority Research Institute University of California, Santa Barbara 4722 South Hall, MC 3220 Santa Barbara, CA 93106-3220

Hakuta, K., Butler, Y.G., and Witt, D. (2000, January). How long does it take English language learners to develop oral proficiency and academic proficiency in English? Stanford, CA: University of California Linguistic Minority Research Institute.

Improving Literacy Outcomes for English Language Learners in High School: Considerations for States and Districts in Developing a Coherent Policy Framework

Author: Koelsch, N. National High School Center.

Summary: The development of strategies to promote literacy among adolescent ELLs is a critical component of improving a variety of their educational outcomes. There are significant opportunities for states to support grade-level literacy among English language learners at the high school level and to thereby increase the chances that more students are able to graduate. The following are some of the key issues to consider when improving schooling for English language learners: high school course patterns, over-representation of ELLs in special education, school completion and graduation requirements, English literacy and college completion, and professional development for teachers. Many of these issues cross-cut through organizational structures of state education agencies and require a coordinated approach for supporting ELLs that will enable them to succeed in high school and beyond.

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Target Population: All

Research Questions the Report Poses: How can teachers improve literacy outcomes for English Language Learners in High School?

Findings:

  • English language learners who are able to negotiate entry into high-level courses develop higher levels of literacy than do ELLs of similar proficiency who are tracked in low-level courses.
  • Latino English language learners are over-represented in special education.
  • ELL students have a better chance to achieve at high levels when academic barriers to college preparation and accelerated courses are removed.
  • College preparatory courses can be accompanied by enrollment in academic support classes when necessary.
  • States need to provide leadership to ensure that English language learners in high school are provided accelerated and enriching academics rather than remediation.

Policy Recommendations:
N/A

To order a hard copy of the report, contact:
National High School Center. American Institutes for Research, 1000 Thomas Jefferson Street NW, Washington, DC 20007.

Koelsch, N. (2006). National High School Center, American Institutes for Research. Improving Literacy Outcomes for English Language Learners in High School: Considerations for States and Districts in Developing a Coherent Policy Framework.

Improving Reading Across Subject Areas With Word Generation

Author: Lawrence, J.F., Snow, C.E. & White, C. Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Summary:

In this report, there is evidence that vocabulary instruction can have an important and lasting impact on student word learning. Compared with their native English-speaking peers, language minority students on average have lower reading performance in English. While numerous factors account for this gap, researchers have pointed to differences in word knowledge as part of the explanation. Language minority students have both less depth and less breadth of vocabulary.

There is reason to think, that a robust vocabulary intervention that targets academic language may improve vocabulary and reading comprehension in the short run while also supporting the struggling reader's facility at learning new words independently. The research project described here presents findings from an unmatched quasi-experiment of the Word Generation Program, an intervention firmly grounded in what is currently known about effective practice, while also casting light on how enhanced vocabulary levels relate to improved reading comprehension. The goal of Word Generation is to improve vocabulary so that it results in improved reading comprehension; clearly, short-term vocabulary learning will not generate long-term comprehension improvement.

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Target Population: Middle School (6th, 7th, 8th grades)

Research Questions the Report Poses: Can the 'Word Generation Program' improve the vocabulary and reading skills of English Language Learners?

Findings:

  • Descriptive statistics show that students in the Word Generation Program learned approximately the number of words that differentiated eighth from sixth graders on the pretest. In other words, participation in 20–22 weeks of the curriculum was equivalent to two years of incidental learning.
  • In the comparison schools English-only students improved more than language minority students, in the treatment schools language-minority students improved more than English-only students.
  • Students who benefited most from participation in Word Generation had higher MCAS scores than students with similarly improved vocabularies acquired without Word Generation exposure.
  • Despite the evidence of vocabulary gains for all Word Generation participants on average, and in particular for language minority participants, we did not know whether these students maintained vocabulary knowledge after summer vacation and through the following school year.
  • Students who participated in the intervention maintained their relative improvements at both follow-up assessments. Therefore, they have reason to expect that these students will display improved reading comprehension and enhanced academic learning.

Policy Recommendations:
N/A

To order a hard copy of the report, contact:
Center for Research on the Educational Achievement and Teaching of English Language Learners University of Houston Texas Institute for Measurement, Evaluation, & Statistics 100 TLCC Annex Houston, TX 77204-6022

Lawrence, J.F., Snow, C.E. & White, C. (2011). Improving Reading Across Subject Areas With Word Generation. Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Improving Reading Across Subject Areas with Word Generation

Author: Joshua F. Lawrence, Claire White, and Catherine E. Snow, Harvard Graduate School of Education. Center for Research on Educational Achievement and Teaching of English Language Learners.

Summary: Using the evidence that reading comprehension supports vocabulary development and that vocabulary development supports reading comprehension, the authors describe the relationship between these two processes as one of reciprocal causation. It has been widely noted that less able students are likely to fall farther and farther behind if they struggle with learning processes linked by reciprocal causation. Fortunately, there is evidence that vocabulary instruction can have an important and lasting impact on student word learning. There is reason to think, then, that a robust vocabulary intervention that targets academic language may improve vocabulary and reading comprehension in the short run while also supporting the struggling reader's facility at learning new words independently. To study this further, the authors have conducted a quasi–experiment to assess the effectiveness of the "Word Generation Program," an intervention firmly grounded in what is currently known about effective practice, while also casting light on how enhanced vocabulary levels relate to improved reading comprehension. To this end, the research team compared the academic word–learning of schools that chose to implement the program versus schools that chose not to.

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Tags: Comprehension; Reading; Vocabulary;

Target Population: Elementary School

Research Questions the Report Poses:

  • What is the relationship between reading comprehension and vocabulary development?
  • How effective is the "Word Generation Program" in improving academic word–learning?

Findings:

  • Participation in 20–22 weeks Word Generation curriculum was equivalent to two years of incidental learning. However, these results are skewed due to differences in timing of pretest, meaning that while the Word Generation did improve word–learning, it was not as significant as this result would indicate.
  • Boys learned more words than girls.
  • Participants in Word Generation Program learned more words than non–participants.
  • Language minority students learned words at a relatively faster rate than English–only students in treatment schools, but not comparison schools.
  • Students who benefited most from participation in Word Generation had higher MCAS scores than students with similarly improved vocabularies acquired without Word Generation exposure.
  • A longitudinal quasi–experiment follow–up showed that students who participated in the intervention maintained their relative improvements at both follow–up assessments. This indicates that Word Generation does in fact promote long–term vocabulary and reading comprehension.

Lawrence, J.F., White, C., Snow, C.E. (2011.) "Improving Reading Across Subject Areas with Word Generation." Center for Research on Educational Achievement and Teaching of English Language Learners. Retrieved from: http://www.cal.org/create/resources/pubs/pdfs/improving-reading-across-subject-areas-with-word-generation.pdf

Linguistic Life Expectancies: Immigrant Language Retention in Southern California

Author: Ruben G. Rumbaut, Douglas S. Massey, and Frank D. Bean

Summary: In what serves as a response to Samuel P. Huntington';s Who Are We? The Challenges of America's National Identity, the authors research the question of assimilation and English acquisition in Spanish-speaking households in southern California. The authors conclude that while the density of Spanish speakers in Southern California remains strong, the tendency to lose one's native language by the third generation at the latest mimics the patterns observed for earlier European immigrants to the U.S.

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Tags: Bilingualism / Biliteracy; Fluency; Language of Instruction; Language Proficiency; Latino ELL Students;

Target Population: Pre-school, Elementary, Middle, High School, Post-Secondary

Research Questions the Report Poses: How long can immigrant populations be expected, on average, to remain fluent in their languages of origin?

Findings:

  • The probability is 97% that a great grandchild of Mexican immigrants will not speak Spanish
  • Mexican Spanish can be expected to have a life expectancy of 3.1 generations
  • Guatemalan and Salvadoran Spanish can be expected to have a life expectancy of 2.8 generations
  • Spanish spoken by other Latin Americans can be expected to have a life expectancy of 2.6 generations

Policy Recommendations:
N/A

To order a hard copy of the report, contact:
N/A

Rumbaut, R.G., Massey D.S., and Bean, F.D. (2006). Linguistic Life Expectancies: Immigrant Language Retention in Southern California. Population and Development Review, 32(3), 447-460.

Meeting the Literacy Development Needs of Adolescent English Language Learners Through Content Area Learning (Part 2): Focus on Classroom Teaching and Learning Strategies

Author: Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory (LAB), The Education Alliance at Brown University, Julie Meltzer and Edmund Hamann

Summary: Part Two of this report highlights areas of overlap between the research on adolescents' content-area literacy development and literature addressing the academic performance and instruction of ELLs. This process allowed the authors to identify instructional strategies that are beneficial for all students, which they recommend incorporating in future professional development for teachers.

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Tags: Content Areas: Math; Content Areas: Science; Content Areas: Social Studies; Differentiated Instruction; Intervention; Motivation; Placement; Reading; Struggling Readers; Transfer of Literacy Skills; Vocabulary; Writing;

Target Population: Middle, High School

Research Questions the Report Poses: How can teachers and school administrators simultaneously foster all secondary students' academic literacy across content areas and respond to the particular needs of ELLs?

Findings:

  • About six million middle and high school students (more than a quarter of the U.S. student population) are reading below grade level, classified as at-risk or struggling.
  • ELLs are frequently placed in mainstream classrooms with teachers with little to no training. This, posit the authors, is due to the lack of trained ESL instructors, the rapidly growing ELL population, and caps on the number of years students can spend in ELL or bilingual programs.
  • Research indicates that a minimum of four years of English instruction is crucial for the academic success of ELLs. Moreover, native language instruction can have added benefits.
  • Student achievement can be boosted with the use of several key pedagogical practices, outlined in the section below.

Policy Recommendations:

Teacher development and training should target the best practices of both adolescent literacy and ELL research. These include:

  • Teacher modeling and explicit strategy instruction to demonstrate the skills required for a task, and the use of follow-up assessments to measure student comprehension and areas for future growth.
  • Classroom emphasis on building reading, writing, speaking, thinking, and listening skills to provide more complex and challenging learner-centered classrooms.
  • Instruction on cognitive and metacognitive strategies during literacy tasks to strengthen students' ability to evaluate their own work and analyze content.
  • Subject-specific vocabulary instruction and exposure to texts with high level vocabulary.

To order a hard copy of the report, contact:
The Education Alliance at Brown
222 Richmond Street, Suite 300
Providence, RI 02903-4226
Phone: 800.521.9550
Fax: 401.421.7650
E-mail: info@alliance.brown.edu

Meltzer, J. & Hamann, E. (2004). Meeting the literacy development needs of adolescent English language learners. Part two: Focus on classroom teaching and learning strategies. Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory .

Middle-to-High School Transition for English Language Learners: Promising School-Based Practices

Author: Lara, J., & Harford, S.; Smaller Learning Communities Program

Summary: This paper examines the nexus among three current areas of concern for secondary educators and policymakers: restructuring high schools into small learning communities (SLCs); supporting the transition of students into the ninth grade; and instructing English language learners (ELLs). Research in these three separate areas has become increasingly abundant and relevant as national educational policy focus has shifted toward high school improvement. ELLs are enrolled in large numbers in urban schools, which have lately been the recipients of high school reform initiatives. Yet, despite the abundant presence of ELLs in these schools, little information is available on how the distinctive linguistic, academic, and social needs of ELLs have been considered in high school reform policies and programmatic initiatives.

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Tags: Intervention; Language Proficiency; Motivation; Placement; Struggling Readers;

Target Population: Middle, High School

Research Questions the Report Poses:

  • What is the best middle to high school transitions for ELLs?
  • What happens to the ELL moving from eighth to ninth grade in a SLC?
  • How are his or her unique educational needs considered?
  • Is the instructional program designed to seamlessly integrate English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) instruction with the SLC or ninth?grade transitional programs?
  • Is the student required to choose between accessing linguistically appropriate instruction and accessing the benefits of a career or technical academy?
  • Does the student's de facto status as an ELL preclude him or her from taking part in programs and courses within the SLC schools?

Findings:

  • In order to ensure that ELL students catch up with their peers, the school must place emphasis on intense ELD instruction.
  • Teachers should use specialized instructional methodologies to build their abilities to teach content to ELL students.
  • Beneficial to ELL transitions are the flexible delivery and scheduling of academic and non-academic supports.
  • It does not appear that any one school is implementing a coherent service delivery plan. Instead, there are examples of isolated implementation of best practices in a given area, but not across the school or for all ELL students

Lara, J., & Harford, S. (n.d.). Middle-to-High School Transition for English Language Learners: Promising School-Based Practices. Smaller Learning Communities Program. Retrieved January 13, 2011 from: http://www.edweek.org/media/final-middletohighschool.pdf

No Childhood Advantage in the Acquisition of Skill in Using an Artificial Language Rule

Author: Ferman, S. & Karni, A. PLoS ONE.

Summary:

A leading notion is that language skill acquisition declines between childhood and adulthood. While several lines of evidence indicate that declarative ("what", explicit) memory undergoes maturation, it is commonly assumed that procedural ("how-to", implicit) memory, in children, is well established. The language superiority of children has been ascribed to the childhood reliance on implicit learning. Here we show that when 8-year-olds, 12-year-olds and young adults were provided with an equivalent multi-session training experience in producing and judging an artificial morphological rule (AMR), adults were superior to children of both age groups and the 8-year-olds were the poorest learners in all task parameters including in those that were clearly implicit.

The AMR consisted of phonological transformations of verbs expressing a semantic distinction: whether the preceding noun was animate or inanimate. No explicit instruction of the AMR was provided. The 8-year-olds, unlike most adults and 12-year-olds, failed to explicitly uncover the semantic aspect of the AMR and subsequently to generalize it accurately to novel items. However, all participants learned to apply the AMR to repeated items and to generalize its phonological patterns to novel items, attaining accurate and fluent production, and exhibiting key characteristics of procedural memory. Nevertheless, adults showed a clear advantage in learning implicit task aspects, and in their long-term retention. Thus, our findings support the notion of age-dependent maturation in the establishment of declarative but also of procedural memory in a complex language task. In line with recent reports of no childhood advantage in non-linguistic skill learning, we propose that under some learning conditions adults can effectively express their language skill acquisition potential. Altogether, the maturational effects in the acquisition of an implicit AMR do not support a simple notion of a language skill learning advantage in children.

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Target Population: 8-year olds, 12-year olds, and Young Adults

Research Questions the Report Poses: Does language skill acquisition decline between childhood and adulthood?

Findings:

  • The adults' performance was superior to that of the children of both age groups.
  • The 8-year-olds were the poorest performers (in terms of speed as well as accuracy) in the initial session and attained the lowest gains in producing and in judging both repeated and new items throughout the training period.
  • The adult advantage was clear even after the 8-year-olds were given five additional practice sessions.
  • Altogether, the current results clearly show that maturation had a positive effect on the acquisition and retention of an artificial language skill when an equivalent language experience was afforded to 8-year-olds, 12-year-olds and young adults. Young adults outperformed both groups of children and 12-year-olds outperformed the 8-year-olds.
  • Throughout the practice sessions, the age-related advantage was reflected not only in higher accuracy of performance, but also in more fluent performance (i.e., shorter response times) in both the judgment and the production task.
  • The current results suggest that the discovery of the semantic (animate-inanimate) distinction and its requisite role in the AMR was crucial for accurate generalization to new items.

Policy Recommendations:
N/A

To order a hard copy of the report, contact:
U.S. Headquarters Public Library of Science 1160 Battery Street, Koshland Building East, Suite 100 San Francisco, CA 94111

Ferman S., Karni, A. (2010). No Childhood Advantage in the Acquisition of Skill in Using an Artificial Language Rule. PLoS ONE.

Reparable Harm: Fulfilling the Unkept Promise of Educational Opportunity for California's Long Term English Learners.

Author: L. Olsen. Californians Together.

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Tags: Fluency; Intervention; Language Proficiency; Placement; Struggling Readers; Transfer of Literacy Skills;

Target Population: Secondary, High School

Research Questions the Report Poses: Which of the English learners are left behind? What steps can be taken to prevent this?

Findings:

  • The majority (59%) of secondary school English Learners are "Long Term English Learners" (in United States schools for more than six years without reaching sufficient English proficiency to be reclassified). In one out of three districts, more than 75% of their English Learners are Long Term.
  • California school districts do not have a shared definition of "Long Term English Learners." Most districts lack any definition or means of identifying or monitoring the progress and achievement of this population. Only one in four districts has a formal definition or designation for identifying, counting, serving or monitoring services for these students - and their definitions vary in the number of years considered "normative" for how soon English Learners should have reached proficiency (range from five to ten years).
  • English Learners become "Long Term" English Learners in the course of their schooling experience. Several factors seem to contribute to becoming a Long Term English Learner: receiving no language development program at all; being given elementary school curricula and materials that weren't designed to meet English Learner needs; enrollment in weak language development program models and poorly implemented English Learner programs; histories of inconsistent programs; provision of narrowed curricula and only partial access to the full curriculum; social segregation and linguistic isolation; and, cycles of transnational moves.
  • By the time Long Term English Learners arrive in secondary schools, there is a set of characteristics that describe their overall profile. These students struggle academically. They have distinct language issues, including: high functioning social language, very weak academic language, and significant deficits in reading and writing skills. The majority of Long Term English Learners are "stuck" at Intermediate levels of English proficiency or below, although others reach higher levels of English proficiency without attaining the academic language to be reclassified. Long Term English Learners have significant gaps in academic background knowledge. In addition, many have developed habits of non-engagement, learned passivity and invisibility in school. The majority of Long Term English Learners wants to go to college, and are unaware that their academic skills, record and courses are not preparing them to reach that goal. Neither students, their parents nor their community realizes that they are in academic jeopardy.

Olsen, L. (2010). Reparable Harm: Fulfilling the Unkept Promise of Educational Opportunity for California's Long Term English Learners. Californians Together. Retrieved January 6, 2011 from: http://www.californianstogether.org/

Second-Language Acquisition and Bilingualism at an Early Age and the Impact on Early Cognitive Development

Author: Bialystok, E. Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development.

Summary:

The possibility that early bilingualism affects children's language and cognitive development has long been a concern for parents and educators. In the first half of the 20th century, the prevailing view was that bilingualism and second-language acquisition early in life made children confused and interfered with their ability to develop normal cognitive functions and succeed in educational environments. These ideas were dramatically reversed in a landmark study by Peal and Lambert that showed a general superiority of bilinguals over monolinguals in a wide range of intelligence tests and aspects of school achievement. Recent research has been more balanced, identifying areas in which bilingual children excel and others in which bilingualism has no effect on their development.

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Target Population: Preschool, Elementary

Research Questions the Report Poses:

First, it is necessary to establish whether language acquisition proceeds at the same rate and in the same manner for children who are learning two languages simultaneously or are learning a second language after having begun to master one. Second, are children able to acquire literacy skills at school if they are either bilingual or learning a second language, especially if their home language is not the language of instruction? Finally, are there consequences on normal cognitive development in terms of the child's ability to acquire new concepts or perform various calculations (e.g. arithmetic), especially if school instruction is in the child's weaker language?

Findings:

  • There are three main outcomes from this research. First, for general language proficiency, bilingual children tend to have a smaller vocabulary in each language than monolingual children in their language. Nonetheless, their understanding of linguistic structure, called metalinguistic awareness, is at least as good as and often better than that of comparable monolinguals.
  • Second, the acquisition of literacy skills in these children depends on the relationship between the two languages and the level of proficiency in the second language. Specifically, children learning to read in two languages that share a writing system (e.g. English and French) show accelerated progress in learning to read; children whose two languages are written in different systems (e.g. English and Chinese) show no special advantage, but neither do they demonstrate any deficit relative to monolinguals. The benefit of learning to read in two languages, however, requires that children be bilingual and not second-language learners whose competence in one of the languages is weak.
  • Third, bilingual children between four and eight years old demonstrate a large advantage over comparable monolinguals in solving problems that require controlling attention to specific aspects of a display and inhibiting attention to misleading aspects that are salient but associated with an incorrect response. This advantage is not confined to language processing, but includes a variety of non-verbal tasks that require controlled attention and selectivity in such problems as forming conceptual categories, seeing alternative images in ambitious figures, and understanding the difference between the appearance and functional reality of a misleading object.

Policy Recommendations:
N/A

To order a hard copy of the report, contact:
Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development GRIP-Université de Montréal P.O. Box 6128, succ. Centre-ville Montreal (Quebec) H3C 3J7

Bialystok, E. (2008). Second-Language Acquisition and Bilingualism at an Early Age and the Impact on Early Cognitive Development. Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development.

The Effect of Attending Full–Day Kindergarten on English Learner Students

Author: Jill S. Cannon, Alison Jacknowitz, Gary Painter

Summary: A significant and growing English learner (EL) population attends public schools in the United States. Evidence suggests they are at a disadvantage when entering school and their achievement lags behind non–EL students. Some educators have promoted full–day kindergarten programs as especially helpful for EL students. We take advantage of the large EL population and variation in full–day kindergarten implementation in the Los Angeles Unified School District to examine the impact of full–day kindergarten on academic achievement, retention, and English language fluency using difference–in–differences models. We do not find signficant effects of full–day kindergarten on most academic outcomes and English fluency through second grade. However, we find that EL students attending full–day kindergarten were 5 percentage points less likely to be retained before second grade and there are differential effects for several outcomes by student and school characteristics.

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Target Population: Early Education

Research Questions the Report Poses: What is the impact of full–day kindergarten on the academic achievement and English language acquisition of ELLs?

To order a hard copy of the report, contact:
To access the full article one must subscribe to the journal or a database that features it.

Cannon, J.S., Jacknowitz, A., Painter, G. (2011). "The effect of attending full–day kindergarten on English learner students." Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. 30 (2): 287–309. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/pam.20560/abstract.

The Relationship Between English Proficiency and Content Knowledge for English Language Learner Students in Grades 10 and 11 in Utah

Author: X. Barrat, Min Huang; Regional Educational Laboratory at WestEd; National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance

Summary: This study examines the relationship between performance on Utah's English proficiency assessment and English language arts and mathematics content assessments by English language learner students and compares the performance of English language learner and non–English language learner students on the content assessments.

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Tags: Language Proficiency;

Target Population: High School

Research Questions the Report Poses:

  • What is the distribution of performance of ELLs in grades 10 and 11 on the Utah Academic Language Proficiency Assessment, compared with their performance on the English language arts and mathematics content assessments of the Utah Performance Assessment System for Students?
  • How did their performance compare in academic performance with native English speakers?

Findings:

  • The higher students scored on the English proficiency, the higher they scored on both math and language arts exams.
  • English language learner students scored lower than non-English learners in both language arts and math.

Policy Recommendations:
Use the study's findings in discussion of rules on when students should be moved out of English language learner status and in creation of assessment programs and curriculum for English language learners.

Crane, E.W., Barrat V. X., and Huang, M. (2011). The relationship between English proficiency and content knowledge for English language learner students in grades 10 and 11 in Utah. (Issues & Answers Report, REL 2001-No. 110). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory West.

The Role of English Teachers in Educating English Language Learners (ELLs)

Author: National Council of Teachers of English (ELL Task Force)

Summary: This position paper is designed to address the knowledge and skills mainstream teachers need to have in order to develop effective curricula that engage English language learners, develop their academic skills, and help them negotiate their identities as bilingual learners. More specifically, this paper addresses the language and literacy needs of these learners as they participate and learn in English-medium classes. NCTE has made clear bilingual students' right to maintain their native languages. Thus, this paper addresses ways teachers can help these students develop English as well as ways they can support their students' bilingualism. In the United States bilingual learners, more commonly referred to as English language learners, are defined as students who know a language other than English and are learning English. Students' abilities range from being non-English speakers to being fully proficient. The recommendations in this paper apply to all of them.

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Tags: Comprehension; Curriculum; Language Proficiency; Reading; Struggling Readers; Vocabulary; Writing;

Target Population: All

Research Questions the Report Poses: What are the needs of ELLs? How can teachers address these needs?

Findings:

  • Teachers need to get to know their students and about their home situations in order to be most effective.
  • Writing well in English is often the most difficult skill for English language learners to master. Thus teachers should be aware that English language learners may not be familiar with standard American writing procedure like drafting, revision, editing, workshop, conference, audience, purpose, or genre.
  • The best way to help students learn both English and the knowledge of school subjects is to teach language through content.

Policy Recommendations:

  • Colleges and universities should offer pre-service teachers preparation in teaching ELLs including coursework in language acquisition, second language writing and readings, and culture classes.
  • High school English departments should integrate programs that welcome and help acculturate late-arrival immigrant and refugee students with low literacy skills.
  • The report also provides numerous practical recommendations for strategies in the classroom in various subjects.

To order a hard copy of the report, contact:
The National Council of Teachers of English 1111 W. Kenyon Road, Urbana, IL 61801-1096 Phone: 217-328-3870 or 877-369-6283 Fax: 217-328-9645

NCTE ELL Task Force. (2006). NCTE Position Paper on the Role of English Teachers in Educating English Language Learners. National Council of Teachers of English: Urbana, IL.

The Teacher's Guide to Diversity: Building a Knowledge Base

Author: Elise Trumbull and Maria Pacheco. The Education Alliance at Brown University. Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory (LAB).

Summary: The Teacher's Guide to Diversity: Building a Knowledge Base (Trumbull, Pacheco, 2005), published by The Education Alliance at Brown University, offers a wealth of information about multicultural influences on human development, culture, cognition, and language. This two-volume set, which is downloadable as a pdf file, covers such topics as: challenging cultural assumptions about parental involvement in school, supporting students' ethnic and academic identity in school, cultural differences in communication style and language use, and factors that influence second-language acquisition in children. (Volume I: Human Development, Culture, and Cognition; Volume II: Language) Also included is a separate presenter's manual with activities for each unit in the two volumes, which makes this publication easy to use for workshops and professional development.

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Tags: Bilingualism / Biliteracy; Fluency; Language of Instruction; Language Proficiency; Phonics; Phonological Awareness; Transfer of Literacy Skills; Vocabulary;

Target Population: All

Research Questions the Report Poses:

VOLUME I:

  • What are the reigning theories of human development, cognition, culture, and the relationship between them?
  • How does identity development intersect with achievement motivation?
  • What is intelligence?
  • How can our knowledge of human development inform our work as educators working with an increasingly diverse student population?
  • What is known about how to work successfully with families from non-dominant cultural groups?

VOLUME II:

  • What is language proficiency and how does it interact with culture, human development, learning, and schooling?
  • How can teachers best support English language learners (ELLs) and speakers of different English dialects?
  • What are the current views of literacy acquisition and best approaches to literacy instruction?
  • How can assessments eliminate bias based on language?

Findings:

  • Most important to the process of addressing the needs of learners from a wide range of backgrounds is a positive, ongoing process of exploration and constructive conversation among the professionals who serve such students and between professionals and students' families.
  • Meaningful approaches to human development and learning have become increasingly multi-disciplinary.
  • Language indexes culture; language symbolizes culture; culture is partially created by language.

Policy Recommendations:
Teacher's Guide to Diversity includes a third volume, "The Presenter's Manual," which provides support for preparing for and conducting classes or workshops. The manual contains activities and suggested homework assignments, organized by the volume with which they are associated.

Trumbull, E., Pacheco, M. (2005). The Teacher’s Guide to Diversity: Building a Knowledge Base. Providence, RI: The Education Alliance at Brown University. Retrieved from http://www.alliance.brown.edu/pubs/teach_guide_diversity/.

Vietnamese American Experiences of English Language Learning: Ethnic Acceptance and Prejudice

Author: Jeffrey Labelle. Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement

Summary: This article investigates the effects of ethnic acceptance and prejudice on English language learning among immigrant nonnative speakers. During 2004 and 2005, the author conducted participatory dialogues among six Vietnamese and Mexican adult immigrant English language learners. Even though many of the adult immigrant participants experienced ethnic prejudice, they also developed strategies to overcome anxiety, frustration, and fear. The dialogues generated themes of acceptance, prejudice, power, motivation, belonging, and perseverance, all factors essential to consider when developing English language learning programs for adult immigrants.

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Tags: Asian ELL Students; Bilingualism / Biliteracy; Fluency; Motivation;

Target Population: All

Research Questions the Report Poses:

  • What are some nonnative English speakers' experiences regarding the way native speakers treat them?
  • How have nonnative English speakers' experiences of ethnic acceptance or ethnic prejudice affected their learning of English?
  • What do nonnative English speakers think they need in order to lower their anxiety as they learn a new language?
  • What can native English speakers do to lower nonnative speakers' anxiety?
  • What can nonnative English speakers do to lower their anxiety with native English speakers?

Findings:

  • All of the participants experienced both ethnic acceptance and ethnic prejudice, though they tended to be positive and accepting.
  • Successful immigrants overcome their fear and anxiety by making friends with native and nonnative speakers alike.
  • To achieve greater communicative competence English learners must take the initiative to speak English, while native English speakers must learn strategies for listening and understanding, accepting and reinforcing the nonnative speakers.
  • The two ethnic groups of participants viewed prejudice and learning English differently: the Vietnamese believed they could move past prejudice and learn English as a means to belong in American culture, while the Mexican participants fostered a nostalgia for and stronger desire to return to their homeland.
  • The six participants in this study all recognized the importance of encouragement and motivation in learning English, whether by needing English to communicate in ethnically mixed neighborhoods, or community ESL classes showing them they were not alone in learning English.
  • The participants all expressed the opinion that individual effort and perseverance are keys to progress in acquiring English: one needs to take action, reach out, and not give up regardless of the experiences of prejudice.

Policy Recommendations:

The authors recommend:

  • Mixed ESL groupings in class — combining immigrants from different countries so they cannot resort to home language.
  • Closed-caption reading methodology
  • Encouraging immigrants to make friends who are native speakers
  • Improved workplace ESL programs
  • Cultural survival techniques — acquiring goods and services in home language to buffer transition, while still venturing out into English–speaking places.

LaBelle, J. (2007.) Vietnamese American Experiences of English Language Learning. Journal of Southeast Asian American Education & Advancement. Retrieved from: http://jsaaea.coehd.utsa.edu/index.php/JSAAEA/article/view/4