This 45-minute webcast is a thorough introduction to the challenges facing teachers of English language learners in middle and high school. Dr. Short will discuss how to teach content to late-entry English language learners and how to ensure reading comprehension for success in all content areas.
Dr. Short will also review effective instructional strategies and introduce why "newcomer schools" are effective in preparing English language learners for the challenges of grade-level academic content.
The articles and books below were chosen by Reading Rockets to help you learn more about this issue.
Articles about instruction for middle and high school ELLs
- The SIOP Model of Sheltered Instruction, (Center for Applied Linguistics)
- Making Content Comprehensible for English Language Learners (225K PDF)*, by Deborah J. Short, Jana Echevarria, and MaryEllen Vogt (Compiled by the Bilingual and Compensatory Education Resource Team, Dearborn Public Schools, Michigan)
- A National Study of School Effectiveness for Language Minority Students' Long-Term Academic Achievement: Final Report Executive Summary, by Wayne P. Thomas and Virginia P. Collier (Center for Research on Education, Diversity, and Excellence)
- The Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol: A Tool for Teacher-Researcher Collaboration and Professional Development, by Deborah J. Short and Jana Echevarria (Center for Research on Education, Diversity, and Excellence)
- Bilingual Books: Promoting Literacy and Biliteracy in the Second-Language and Mainstream Classroom, by Gisela Ernst-Slavit and Margaret Mulhern (Reading Online)
- Responding to the Demographic Challenge: An Internet Classroom for Teachers of Language-Minority Students, by Jill Kerper Mora (Reading Online)
- Literacy for all Children in the Increasingly Diverse Schools of the United States, by Claude Goldenberg (California State University, Long Beach)
Books and additional articles by our presenter
For a full listing of Deborah Short's publications with the Center for Applied Linguistics, see the CALStore.
- Making Content Comprehensible to English Learners: The SIOP Model, by Jane Echevarria, MaryEllen Vogt, and Deborah Short (Pearson/Allyn & Bacon)
- School Reform and Standards-based Education: How Do Teachers Help English Language Learners?(183K PDF)*, by Jane Echevarria, Deborah Short, and Kristen Powers (Center for Research on Education, Diveristy, and Excellence)
- What Principals Should Know About Sheltered Instruction for English Language Learners, by Deborah Short (NASSP Bulletin)
- A High Point: Success in Language, Literature, & Content, by Afredo Schifini, Deborah Short, and Josefina Tinajero (Hampton-Brown Co.)
Additional articles and books
- Sheltered Content Instruction: Teaching English Language Learners with Diverse Abilities, by Jana Echevarria and Anne Graves (Allyn & Bacon)
- So Much to Say: Adolescents, Bilingualism, and ESL in the Secondary School, by Christian Faltis and Paula Wolfe (Teachers College Press)
- Program Alternatives for English Language Learners (100K PDF)*, by F. Genesee (Center for Research on Education, Diversity & Excellence)
- Authentic Assessment for English Language Learners, by J. Michael O'Malley and Lorraine Valdez Pierce (Addison-Wesley)
- ESL standards for Pre-K-12 students (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc.)
- Review student demographic information for your school or school district. Does your ELL population reflect the trends described by Dr. Short? Specifically, what percentage of students is ELL this school year as compared to five years ago? What is the primary language spoken by ELLs at home?
- The term "English language learner" is a broad term. Describe the diverse population that falls into this category.
- Dr. Short described four challenges facing middle and high school teachers in terms of educating ELL students. Describe the ways your school is addressing those challenges. In addition, describe other challenges that you face as a faculty in educating your ELL students. Then, brainstorm some solutions to those challenges.
- Consider the objectives for one content area you teach, and consider the key language features for that content. In what ways are you already incorporating some aspects of the SIOP model? Share those strategies with your colleagues. What did you learn from watching the 6th grade social studies lesson that you could incorporate into your classroom?
- Describe the similarities and differences between the SIOP plan for teaching reading processes and what you know about effective strategy instruction for middle and high school students.
Delia Pompa is the moderator of this webcast. She is the Vice President of the Center for Community Educational Excellence, at the National Council of La Raza.
Deborah Short is the Senior Research Associate for the the Language Education and Academic Development division of the Center for Applied Linguistics.
The Reading Rockets Professional Development Webcast Series is a production of WETA. Funding for this Colorín Colorado Webcast is provided by The American Federation of Teachers. The Reading Rockets Project is funded by The United States Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.
Delia Pompa: Hello, I'm Delia Pompa. Welcome to our Colorín Colorado Webcast. Today, we'll be talking about English-Language Learners in middle and high school. Dr. Deborah Short is here to help. She's the senior research associate for language in education and academic development at the Center for Applied Linguistics, here in Washington, D.C. Thanks for joining us, Deborah. Tell us a little bit about English-Language Learners in the U.S. in middle and high schools.
Dr. Deborah Short: Thanks, Delia. I'm pleased to be here to talk about this group of students, because it's very important that we pay attention to their language and content learning. We know, from some of the demographic data that The Department of Ed has been collecting, that the growth of ELL enrollment has been exponential over the past decade. Especially when compared to the total enrollment at the k-12 level. We know that most of the English Language Learners are identified as being in elementary school. But there's still a significant number that are at the middle and high school levels. And so we had asked recently the Migration Policy Institute, to try to find that number for us. They looked at the census data, which we know is a little bit of an under-report. But they found that there were about a million and a half English Language Learners in 2000, that were identified as students in grades 6-12. But I would not be surprised if that number weren't double, by now, in our schools. Especially students who are still struggling with academic English. But one other thing that's very significant we should know about is that most of our adolescent English Language Learners are actually second and third generation immigrants.
Delia: That's pretty surprising.
Dr. Short: It is — it is. It means that we have families, perhaps, that are still struggling with literacy. And so the children are struggling with this as well. And so our schools have got to do a better job to help all of our students at middle and high school levels.
Delia: Well, we know that English Language Learner, the term, itself, is a term that refers to a very diverse population. What are some of the distinguishing characteristics of these kids?
Dr. Short: Thanks for asking that, Delia. Because some people think ESL students are one type of group, or one type of student. And there is such diversity among these children. It's really important to understand the factors that come into making them an English Language Learner. Certainly, their first language would be one area where we see a lot of difference. There are — I don't know what the number is, over a 150 different first languages among the students in our schools. We also have to think about their educational background. We have some students who come on grade level, even studied subjects beyond the grades that they enter in the U.S. And we have a lot of students, though, who have had interrupted schooling or no schooling at all. And of course, connected to that is their literacy level in their first language. If they're very literate in their native language, it will make their process of learning English much easier. But we have lots of students who aren't. And so we have to work on that. There are other factors, as well, that play a role in how we should be treating our students. And those include their socioeconomic status, their culture, maybe even their expectations for schooling. One of the things that is worth looking at is to think about the languages that our students speak at home. And I don't know if you know this, but over 70 percent of our English Language Learners are Spanish speakers. The next largest group is at three percent, and those are Vietnamese speakers. There's also three percent of the students who are French speakers. When we think about that 70 percent of our students speak the same native language, that means we can do some significant work with bilingual programs, with dual-language programs where we have appropriate materials and assessments that look at their native language literacy and then help move them along to English literacy.
Delia: Well, given all these characteristics, all these diverse characteristics, how do you set goals for them? What are the main goals for this group of students? Can you set some main goals?
Dr. Short: Well, I think our goals for the middle and high school students, who are English Language Learners, are the same as the goals that we have for all students. We want them to be successful in school. We want them to have proficiency in social English as well as academic English. We want them to have a high school diploma, or the equivalent of a high school diploma. And probably the most important goal is that we want them to have many options in their post-secondary lives. So they can be productive members of our society.
Delia: Let me ask you a question, there. When you talk about social English and academic English, for the high school student, what does that look like?
Dr. Short: Well, social English would be you want to ask a girl out on a date, the kind of language you would use to — a pick-up line even, could be social English for a high school student. When they talk about movies or songs that they're singing, the kind of joshing that goes on in hallways. Or English that's associated with survival, shopping in a store, eating out at a restaurant. But academic English is the language that's used for schooling. It's the specific terms and phrases and way of writing that you find in a math class, or a science class, or a social studies class.
Delia: They're gonna be real cultural icons, aren't they? In such a heterogeneous group, you must find students with varying levels of literacy. Do you?
Dr. Short: Oh, certainly. You certainly do. When you have such diversity among the students, you will see that they are on different paths to academic literacy. We have to identify where they are. All of our students have some common needs. They need to have a program that will develop their academic English and teach them these content areas in ways that they can understand. They need to have teachers who use effective instructional practices. They need teachers who understand literacy development, for example, especially at the secondary level. Our elementary school teachers are typically taught how to teach reading, but not our high school teachers. Now, in terms of assessing the students to find out where they are, we need some very systematic ways to identify some of their background factors that come into play.
Delia: Well, question I think our audience might have is why do they come to us with so many different literacy levels? Is that — how would you lead into that with your diagnosis?
Dr. Short: Well, I think we want to find about their personal backgrounds, okay? So let's begin and talk about a student, Eva. Now, Eva was a student in Russia. She was a very good student. She'd even studied a second language there, French, which matches the alphabet system of English. So that's a plus. And she came to the U.S. when she was 14. Now, her parents were professionals in Russia. They get professional jobs here in the U.S. She enters a program at high school that includes sheltered content instruction, content-based ESL classes. She is making great progress. In two years, she can probably exit the program, because she had native language literacy, because she was up to grade level with her educational backgrounds, because she had parents who were well-educated as well.
Delia: It doesn't seem, from the statistics, that everyone's as fortunate as Eva.
Dr. Short: Well, that's absolutely true. We have a lot of other students, and an increasing number of this type of student, who's coming to our schools. Let me give you an example of Philippe. Philippe lived in rural Nicaragua. And he went to school every month, but not every day. He lived far from school, so it was a distance to walk. And sometimes if there was bad weather, or different responsibilities that he had at home or on the farm, he wouldn't get to go to school. So even when he's 12 years old, and supposedly has been in school for, let's say, for six years. He comes to the U.S., he doesn't have literacy in Spanish, because he hasn't had a chance to really develop those reading and writing skills that you need for school. And he's behind on his content subjects. So when he comes to our programs, he's placed in an ESL class, but he has to struggle to understand the culture of schooling, the academic content, and to understand English, of course.
Delia: That's a very stark difference. Can you give us another example?
Dr. Short: Well, a third one where we have...let's talk about Graciella. Born in Mexico, but she came to the U.S. at five. So all of her schooling is here in the United States. What Graciella suffered from is what we would call program switching. She went to kindergarten and first grade, and was in a Spanish bilingual program. So most of her instruction was in Spanish, but very suddenly was switched by second grade into an all-English classroom. So she really hadn't had a chance to develop any Spanish literacy, or not very much at the end of first grade. Now, she's placed, submerged into English. Well, she's in English for two years, and guess what happens! Her family moves. A lot of our immigrant students, their families are highly mobile. And she's back in a new district and placed back into a bilingual program for fourth grade. Well, what happens? Now, she's in middle school. And she really doesn't have a strong foundation in either language. She's not literate in Spanish. She's not literate in English. And she's in sixth grade, and we have to struggle to help her. We have to know this information about her, though. So we choose the appropriate instructional programs.
Delia: Well, that's the key. You're a high school teacher. How do you tease out these differences? How do you tell your Eva's from your Philippe's?
Dr. Short: Well, that's where diagnostic assessments come into play. We really need to do a better job, I think, at identifying where our students are on this path to literacy when they enter our schools. Now, larger districts that have intake centers are increasingly doing a good job with that. They're looking into, not only their oral English skills and their English reading and writing skills, but they're also assessing their native language literacy skills. Because we know if they're literate in their first language, they will transfer many skills to learning English. Ideally, we'd also assess their content knowledge. And in some cases, certainly Spanish, we have the numbers there where we could be assessing in their native language. Or we could do some assessments in English to try to get a sense of their educational backgrounds.
Delia: Using, or having that knowledge of native language at your disposal must help teachers a lot. But obviously, the goal of educators is to help these English Language Learners learn to read and to succeed, and often times in English. Tell us about what the challenges are.
Dr. Short: Wow. Our middle and high schools face a lot of challenges, the students, the teachers, the parents, and the administrators. Probably what I would say is one of the top concerns is the under-preparation of the teachers. We have far too few teachers who are prepared to work with English Language Learners in their content classes. Certainly the ESL teachers and the bilingual teachers have that background, but not our math and science, history, geography teachers. We have shortages of ESL and bilingual-certified teachers. And can you believe it? There are only three states in the U.S. that require course work in ESL methods and second-language acquisition for all their teachers. That's California, Arizona, and Florida. Now, given the demographic shift I don't know why more states don't do that because all teachers today are going to see second-language learners in their classes.
Delia: What research has been done on all this? Is there an underlying body that would lead to the kinds of teacher preparation that needs to be done, the kind of instruction that needs to take place?
Dr. Short: Well, certainly. There's been a lot of research done on effective instructional practices, which I'll talk to you about in a minute. And they also, we've been looking at adolescent literacy. What can we find out about teaching a second language to an adolescent? How that compares to child language development, for example. And what we found is that the processes of second-language-literacy development vary, substantially, from child language, a first-language-development process, just because the two-year-old always learns how to speak by repeating and listening. We can do many different things, and more effective things, with the older learners when they're learning a second language. Hopefully, we build on their first language. But another thing that the research has shown is that our students need language support for at least four years, and some students for up to seven or nine years. That means that policies that end that support after one year are not doing the students a service. In fact, it's a disservice to them, because acquiring academic English takes a lot longer than the social English that we talked about before. The other thing that we found from the research is that a number of the first-language literacy skills will transfer to second-language literacy. And that's what's important to know about, things like phonemic awareness, or reading comprehension strategies. If you can read a text in your native language, and figure it out, do inference questions and analyze what has happened in the story, or in the article, you have those processes. You can do that in English, once you learn the vocabulary and the grammar, so that you can understand the text.
Delia: Well that's a lot for a teacher to take from the research. How does a teacher take that and sort of turn it into what happens in the classroom? What is her effective instruction look like at that point?
Dr. Short: Well, we know there's some really critical things that teachers have to do. And what we encourage teachers to do, whether they're a content teacher or an ESL teacher, is focus on language specific to the subject area. So, as I said earlier, students can talk like a scientist, or they can read an authentic document the way a historian might do, so that they understand how language is used for those different content areas. Another thing that we've learned from the research is how critical vocabulary development is, so teachers have to really ramp up the amount of vocabulary that they teach the children. They have to, not only inform them what the words mean, but we have so many words with multiple meanings in English. If you think about the word power, how it's used in math class with logarithms, how it's used in history class with executive powers, or how it's used on TV with the Power Rangers, really shows that the kids need someone to help inform them of what the word means and how it's used in that specific subject area. Another thing that the teachers have to do is work on building knowledge for these children. We hear a lot about activating prior knowledge in the mainstream literature. But with our second-language learners, especially those who haven't gone to school in the U.S., we have to build a lot of that knowledge. They haven't had the same experiences. They haven't been through elementary school, necessarily, here. So the teachers have to build and activate making connections to their lives. Another thing that they really have to focus on is unpacking this reading and writing process. What does it mean to read to learn, in particular? And how do we write? How do we write with the different genres for the needs of the different subject areas? And finally, I think what teachers might want to do is exploit the relationship between oral language and literacy.
Delia: Oh, tell us more about that.
Dr. Short: Well, we know that if you have oral language skills in English, you can use that as a springboard for developing reading and writing skills in English. If you have native language literacy where you read and write in your first language, that's also a springboard for developing English literacy. But both of these should be combined to help our students accelerate their learning of academic English. Specifically, what I would like to talk to you about, Delia, is one approach that we've conducted some empirical research on. And this is called the SIOP Model. That stands for the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, but it's easier to say SIOP. And with this model, we're having teachers teach the grade-level curriculum to the students, but in ways that make it more accessible through specialized strategies. And also promote their language development. This means that we highlight key features of the language, whether it's language functions, or the vocabulary, or the phrasing of sentences. And we also use content-comprehensible input techniques. I'll talk a little bit more about that, if you'd like to hear.
Delia: Well, actually, I think we're going to get to look at a clip that's going to take us, and give us some of those examples. Let's take a look inside the classroom of Robin Liten-Tejada, who teaches U.S. History to advanced beginners in sixth grade, using the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, or the SIOP Model.
Robin Liten-Tejada: I'm always looking for ways to tie the concepts that I'm teaching in social studies to the students' personal lives and experiences. Some of the ways I do that is I'll look at the content and pick out the main idea, the main concept, and think of, "How can I tie that to something that's going on in the students' lives."
Ms. Liten-Tejada: And I'd like you to list at least five reasons, at least five reasons. But you can do more if you can think of more. And thinking about why your family came, why people you know came, just why you imagine why people would leave their home country, and come today to the United States. Then, when we finish, we're going to make a big list on the front of the room of all your ideas. Okay? So, I'll give you about five or seven minutes to list as many ideas as you can. Okay? But everybody contributing.
Ms. Liten-Tejada: And what would the problem be in their country?
Student: Like, the house is better. Or they don't have much money.
Ms. Liten-Tejada: They don't have much money? Okay.
Student: ...I don't know.
Ms. Liten-Tejada: Okay.
Student: Never mind about that.
Ms. Liten-Tejada: No, you have to accept all ideas.
Student: That's okay.
Ms. Liten-Tejada: So, in other words, their living condition in their country was not very good. They didn't have a nice house?
Ms. Liten-Tejada: You mean they could live better here, and have a nicer house?
Ms. Liten-Tejada: Okay.
Student: Or to get more money.
Ms. Liten-Tejada: Okay, well that's another reason.
Student: Save money.
Ms. Liten-Tejada: Okay, all right, so put both of them. You can have more than five.
Ms. Liten-Tejada: We're going to see how many ideas we can list up here about why people come to the United States today. And then we're going to do another activity after that with our list of ideas.
Ms. Liten-Tejada: Okay, so we will start. Okay, everybody ready? All right, reader. Who's reader in group number one? All right, so Fronwell, go ahead.
Fronwell: To get freedom of religion, to get —
Ms. Liten-Tejada: Okay, wait, stop, one idea at a time. All right, to get freedom of religion. All right, did anyone else have that idea? Well, now, I want you to think, "Which is the most common reason why your families came here to the United States?"
Ms. Liten-Tejada: I wanted them to predict what would be the most common reason why the families in this country came. The purpose of that, for doing the prediction, is I wanted to keep them engaged to practice the thinking skills of making predictions.
Ms. Liten-Tejada: Now, I'm going to have each person come up, and you're going to put your dots underneath the reason why your family came here, the number one reason.
Ms. Liten-Tejada: Fronwell said, "What if there are two reasons?" Well, pick the one that was the most important. I had given the students dot stickers, and then each group came up and put a sticker next to the reason why their family came. And so this gave us a visual representation of the most common reasons why people today come here.
Delia: Deborah, would you point out for us exactly what that teacher was doing. What did she do well for these students?
Dr. Short: Well, as they said, she had advanced beginners. And so this was...
Delia: Which in itself is an oxymoron, what would be an advanced beginner?
Dr. Short: Well, that's true. These students began the school as beginners, let's say. And we filmed actually in May. So it was the end of the school year and they're making the preparations — probably to be what we would call an intermediate level student the following school year. So at this point, they can read a little bit. You could see that they could speak. And they were able to do some writing. And so, that's how we would call them an advanced beginner. Now, specifically, what she did for them was incorporate — excuse me — a lot of comprehensible input techniques that would help. She used visuals. You saw the map. And she had a time line. She had some other hands-on materials that the students used. You see it later, they did some work with vocabulary cards and looked at photos that were in the chapter of the book that they were about to read. She also slowed down her speech. And she repeated herself quite a bit. And this again gives the student some time to process language that they're hearing in a new language. They're hearing the teacher talk in a language that they're still learning. In terms of preparation for the lesson, she really worked on building background. She connected to the students' lives. They're going to be studying about settlers who came to the U.S. And she connected that to the reasons that their immigrant families came to the U.S. And wanted to compare if the reasons today are similar to the reasons in the past. She also made specific reference to lessons they'd already studied. So, again, she's providing that continuity from one day to the next in terms of the curriculum development. And finally, what we don't see, but goes on later in the class is a focus on vocabulary. She really helps the student identify the academic terms that they're going to need to understand the reading.
Delia: Well one of the things I saw in the clip was when she said, "I want you to list five reasons," and she counted one, two, three, four, five. And then again, later on, she said that would be five. Now, you were starting to tell us a little earlier about SIOP. Is that one of the things that you see in there, one of the attention to things that we don't think about as English speakers?
Dr. Short: Well, certainly. And I think not only the repetition and the slower speech, but also, if you notice, if she would say five or four, and then she would write down what the students were saying. And within the SIOP Model, we try to help the teachers engage in all of the different modalities to help the students learn, orally and in writing with physical movement and with cooperative grouping. So specifically, in the model, we have eight different components that we ask the teachers to focus on. We start out with preparation. And that every lesson needs to have both the language objective and a content objective. We ask that of the content subject area teacher and of the ESL teacher, so that they're working in tandem to develop academic English. We then have a component that focuses on building background, exactly what you saw here, connecting to their lives, and developing vocabulary knowledge. We then try to include ESL techniques to make that input comprehensible. And ask the teachers to really explicitly teach children learning strategies, both cognitive and metacognitive strategies, so that they can become lifelong learners, outside of the sheltered or the ESL classes. The final four components have to do with interaction, with practice and applying activities that will touch on all of the four different language skills, having a lot of oral language practice for the children, meeting the objectives that the teacher has set, and then a review piece. And that's very, very critical that some teachers who run out of time forget about, but our students have been sitting there, 45 minutes, 50 minutes, learning, hearing input through this second language, and if the teacher takes even three minutes to wrap up, review the vocabulary and the key concepts, that's much more powerful for the students' learning.
Delia: Now, this teacher seemed to use a lot of support materials and support activities. How do these help?
Dr. Short: Well, certainly having supplemental materials will really help the English Language Learner. Some of our more traditional pedagogies, talk about lecture and textbook reading and answer questions at the back of the book. That's not very effective when we have second-language learners learning content through this new language. So having additional reading materials, having visuals for them to use, letting them work in a group and write down their ideas, and then share them — that all really helps the second-language learner in class.
Delia: Were there some techniques that preceded this lesson, or that maybe will follow this lesson that we weren't able to see that would be important?
Dr. Short: Oh, certainly. One of the things that the teacher does as the lesson goes on is helping them preview the reading. Our students, especially at this stage, now they're moving out of the beginning level of English proficiency, but they're still beginners. You can't just put a textbook in front of them and expect them to be able to go through all of those pages and really understand the material. So she takes the text and previews the chapter. They look at the illustrations or the photos, or any other diagrams that might be there. They look at the headings. She works on the key vocabulary. And then they spend time discussing what's in the text orally before they get into reading and writing about it.
Delia: So there's a long piece that comes before?
Dr. Short: Yes. There's a lot to do if we want them to be successful when it comes to the reading of the textbook.
Delia: Well, how about when you're talking about programs for English Language Learners, at any level, we hear about newcomer programs. We hear about sheltered programs. We hear about bilingual programs. I would like to, and I know our audience would like to hear, more about each one of these, because we hear them tossed around all the time. Tell us more, first, about the newcomer program, because that seems to be a very popular program that lots of people talk about these days.
Dr. Short: Right, it's a growing phenomenon, one might say, here in the U.S. And a particularly useful strategy for a school district, at the middle and high school level in particular, when they have new students who are arriving with very low skills in English. A newcomer program would be distinct from the regular ESL. So it's pre-ESL one, let's say. And it often tends to be a short-term program, maybe for a year, maybe for a year and a half. What we find is that the teachers who receive newcomer students use instructional strategies to really help develop literacy and to teach the content through sheltered techniques. What also they do is focus on helping the children become oriented to U.S. schools, to the expectations in schools, and to our culture. And that's a critical piece in newcomer programs. They're not just thrown into a classroom without any support. There's someone there helping them.
Delia: Now, who might be the students that would go into newcomer programs? All ELL students?
Dr. Short: No. And think back about the students that we had. Philippe, in our examples earlier, would be the prime candidate for a newcomer program. He doesn't have literacy skills in his native language. He's not very proficient at all in English, yet. And he's had interrupted schooling. So if he goes into a newcomer program, he has the opportunity in an intense environment, to accelerate his learning, to really focus on English as used in schools, and to get some leg up on some of the content areas that he may not have studied before.
Delia: Now, when you said some of these programs are short, you said a year, we see some programs popping up around the country that are newcomer programs that are six weeks, that are half a semester. Would you say that those are a prime example of a good newcomer program?
Dr. Short: Well, Delia, we started doing some research on newcomer programs in the second half of the '90s. And when we first started, we saw more programs like that, six weeks, eight weeks, half-year program, or a summer program. But over the course of five years, we saw the shift. More and more programs went to one year, or one year plus summer. In fact, 75 percent of the programs that we researched were in that category. And this is because the students come in with such educational needs that having that period of time is a way to really give them the catch-up help that they need to then go into the regular ESL, or the bilingual, or even the mainstream program at their school.
Delia: You used bilingual, and that's another term that's used to describe a whole lot of programs in the United States. And at the same time, dual language is another term you hear. They're used interchangeably, sometimes. And sometimes when you visit these programs, you see something different. Are there differences in the two programs? Or is it a matter of semantics? What are the characteristics of each?
Dr. Short: Well, bilingual programs would be, say, the sub-head, or the overall heading for these kinds of programs, because it implies that there was instruction in the native language of the student. And then dual-language programs would be one type of bilingual programs. But let me first begin just some general features of bilingual programs have to do with, as I said, there's a desire that the students do not miss out on content while they're learning English. So bilingual programs will offer content subject courses in the native language of the students at the same time they're also getting ESL classes, so they're maintaining, let's say, their mathematics skills while they're learning English at the same time. Some of the bilingual programs are short term, they're what we call transitional programs, two or three years. And some are more long term, what we might say a developmental program, four, five, six years. Now, the short-term programs, the real goal for them is to maintain their content knowledge, but move them into English fairly quickly. The more developmental programs have a goal of dual bilingualism. That's kind of an oxymoron, or that's a — to be bilingual in both languages. And so the time frames will vary across these kinds of bilingual programs. But, in general, that means there is some instruction provided through the native language. And in some cases, native language literacy is also promoted. When we talk about dual-language programs, though, this is a more systematic development for additive bilingualism. Again, where the students will be proficient in both languages at the end of their schooling. It requires a long-term commitment.
Delia: Talk about additive bilingualism before you go on.
Dr. Short: Okay. One of the things, Delia, that I wish would happen for all students in our country is that they would all become bilingual and in an additive way. Meaning that we're not taking away the native language of the student in order for them to learn English, but they're learning their native language and they're adding English to that. So at the end of their schooling, they're bilingual in the true sense of the word. They can talk in both languages about all subjects. And this is good for our English Language Learners. It's also good for our native English speakers. And that's one of the wonderful features about the dual language, or the two-way emersion programs, because native English speakers and English Language Learners are learning together. And so both groups are becoming bilingual at the end of the term.
Delia: Now, we don't hear as much about bilingual and dual-language programs for high school students. But we do hear an awful lot about sheltered programs. What are sheltered programs?
Dr. Short: Okay. So, you're absolutely right. Most of the bilingual, the dual-language programs, are found at the elementary level. Most high schools have switched over to an ESL design. Now, in effective programs, which is what I would call sheltered programs, you will have not only ESL classes that incorporate content, vocabulary, and background themes. But you'll also have trained teachers in the content areas like Robin Liten-Tejeda, who we saw in the video, who know how to make the content comprehensible, but still cover the curriculum objectives for the students and promote their language development. So in a sheltered program, you'll find sheltered instruction. But, you'll also find a systematic path for the students. So if they come in, they might have two periods of ESL, a period of content ESL reading, a period of sheltered math, sheltered social studies, and sheltered science. The next year, they might have only two ESL. And they may have made enough progress, say, in mathematics that they don't need to be in sheltered math anymore. But they're still in sheltered science and social studies. By the third year, they've cut down, again, on some of those programs, but they're making progress towards graduation.
Delia: Sounds like a very supportive program. Let's go ahead and look at an example of one class in a sheltered program. Here's a clip from Gerardo Hoyos' High School and their biology class. Gerardo Hoyos teaches students of multiple proficiency levels in grades nine through 12.
Gerardo Hoyos: What they are going to be doing is a three-dimensional project in which these visuals, they use different ideas, and they come up with their models. They also have to write and use some references. They have to go to the books. I'm asking for three things. They have to tell me the names of the organelles, location, and structure.
Mr. Hoyos: These are the objectives. I just want you to check those objectives. We're going to read them. And then we're going to copy them. And as a matter of fact, we have them here in the side in case you forget about them. They're here on the board. How do you get to know that it's a plant cell? Carlos, you raised your hand.
Carlos: It has —
Mr. Hoyos: It has what?
Carlos: It has chloroplasts.
Mr. Hoyos: Chloroplast, all right! So, chloroplast is a typical thing, a typical structure in the plant cell. Yes, man.
Student: Most of their colors are green.
Mr. Hoyos: Most of the color is green. Good, that is a good observation. There is something else very important in a plant cell. Do you guys know what it is? The cell wall...good! You can see the cell wall right here. Those are the things that we don't find in an animal cell. Do you guys remember some of the functions of those organelles? Say, for example, the nucleus? Anyone know what the function is?
Student: Um, repair.
Mr. Hoyos: Repair.
Student: And reproduction.
Mr. Hoyos: And reproduction of the cell. What is a function of the ribosomes? Yes, Danny.
Danny: The proteins.
Mr. Hoyos: The proteins, yes, production of proteins.
Mr. Hoyos: They get in groups and they start discussing about the materials, discussing about who's going to write, who's going to bring these, who's going to bring that, shall we do a fruit? Shall we do it with these materials or that? Once they start, it's incredible.
Student: And we use these for the ribosomes, because they're the little red ones.
Student: So where are those going to be? Right here, on the left side?
Student: Yeah, over by the —
Mr. Hoyos: All right! That's good! How are we going to play this game?
Student: We're going to ask them, give them a name, an organelle, and they're going to come and give the different part. They're going to put the part here in the place it has to be. And then they're going to put the meaning into there.
Mr. Hoyos: Hey, that's a nice cell. What are you guys doing? It's an animal cell? All right, so you're going to use these and what else?
Student: Macaroni and cheese.
Mr. Hoyos: Good, it's going to look nice.
Mr. Hoyos: All right.
Mr. Hoyos: It was kind of challenging, because they were going to be interacting. They were going to be coming with different ideas. And they were going to use their creativity and imagination to come up with their own project. One of the groups, they came up with their own idea by creating a game. They said that it was going to be sort of a review at the end of the day, or at the end of the lesson. The most rewarding thing here, is when you see the final product, when you see that they did understand, that you see that you accomplished goals or the objectives. And they understand what was supposed to be covered.
Delia: Okay, Deborah. How can we tell what the kids actually learned about biology from this class?
Dr. Short: Well, one of the things that's nice about Gerry's class is that he has multiple proficiency levels. Students who are beginners up through students who have even exited the ESL program, because biology is a required subject for graduation in California, all these students could be in this one class. Well, given that one simple paper and pencil test is not as efficient and effective for these groups of kids. So what he has done is project-based learning. He's had them create a project at the end of the unit that he can then assess to determine how much they have learned.
Delia: Students in this age group are preparing for high school exit exams. How are they affected by No Child Left Behind? How are they affected by the exit exams?
Dr. Short: No Child Left Behind certainly has some positive results, and it's called attention to the needs of these students. But there's been some negative implications as well. And one certainly has been in the area of testing. Do you know that there are significant achievement gaps when we look at state tests and we compare how English Language Learners are doing and how other subgroups are doing? So we know we have to do a better job with regard to the testing. And certainly high school exit exams as well as the other exams required by No Child Left Behind are problematic, because in most states, students are being assessed before they know English. But the test is in English. So they're really doing double work there. They're trying to figure out what the test question means, or what the answer choices are, and not even having a chance, really, to demonstrate how well they know the material. Another aspect of No Child Left Behind that needs some attention is the definition of a highly-qualified teacher. Currently, you could be a highly-qualified teacher of algebra, and know your subject very, very well, but have a class full of beginner ELL students, just like we saw in Robin's class, or some of the ones in Gerry's class. But you don't have to know anything about ESL methods. You don't have to know about second-language acquisition. So that has a negative implication, again, for the students.
Delia: Well, we know that the high school dropout rate for Latino students is very high, about 21 percent nationwide. And if you look at particular school districts in city, it's much, much higher than that. What alternatives are available to students who dropped out or failed their exit courses? Because a lot of these kids, as you know, who come in as English Language Learners, come in rather late, and given the time frame they have, are unable to complete the requirements or pass the English test. What could we be doing for them to make sure they're not dropping out of the system all together?
Dr. Short: You're absolutely right. We need to look at some alternatives, especially for those beginners who enter at ninth grade. There are some alternative high school programs that are being used in different parts of the country. One has been a night school, or an evening school program where they're taking pretty much, say from 5:00 to 10:00, all the regular courses, but they've had a chance, these older learners in particular, to work during the day, and then they get to go to school at night. We have some students who have decided to drop out, so they're looking for ways to get back into the system. So there may be some career or vocational programs that they can connect with, or some community college partnerships where they can take some courses at the community college campus, but that were leading to their high school diploma. And then the final thing to think about are alternatives to the state required high school exit exams. Two states come to mind, New Jersey and Washington. Both have some alternatives if students fail the exam, there's other options, another type of assessment, or portfolio process that the students could go through to demonstrate the knowledge that they gained in high school.
Delia: Deborah, we've covered so much ground. And there's so much more we'd like to cover with you. This is a very complex topic with some kids that have very, very special and a lot of needs. What closing thoughts could you give our audience today?
Dr. Short: Well, Delia, I think the most important thing is not solving the problem at the end, but right from the start, that we have appropriate programs and instruction and assessment for these students that put them on the pathway to academic success. And some of the things that I would suggest that administrators and educators think about is offering at least four years of language support for these students with qualified teachers and appropriate materials. That we consider having a five or six-year high school plan for the students who enter at ninth grade with low levels of proficiency and interrupted schooling. Unfortunately, the schools that keep the children for that long are getting penalized under No Child Left Behind, because their graduation rate goes down. So we need some adjustments there, so we can offer a five-year plan that shows the students how they will be successful in the end. Another thing that I would ask for is more teachers having knowledge of ESL techniques, second-language acquisition theory, and also, how to teach literacy across the content areas in our middle and high schools. I think two final things to keep in mind would be fiscal resources that target the adolescents. We've put a lot of money into k-3, and have had some success, just look at the fourth grade Nate from last summer. But we don't have much success with the upper grades, so we need to target our resources there. And finally, when we're making high-stake decisions about these children, we really should use multiple measures of assessment, so we really understand what they know and what they can do.
Delia: Thank you. Thank you so much, Dr. Deborah Short. And thank you for watching. Don't forget to browse the recommended readings for this topic. And let us know what you thought about this program by taking our survey, which you can find on the main Web page for this webcast. For more information about teaching English Language Learners to read, and about how to reach out to their families, please visit our Web site, coloríncolorado.org.