Introducing our new blog!

Welcome to the first weekly Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English Language Learners (ELLs) blog! I’m Diane Staehr Fenner, and I'll let you know a little more about myself in just a bit. Before I do that, I'd like to tell you how this blog came about and what its purpose is.

How The Blog Came To Be

The idea for this blog came from Colorín Colorado’s Manager, Lydia Breiseth. Lydia has been following news and updates about the CCSS and ELLs for more than two years. As Lydia saw an increasing amount of work targeted towards ELLs, she wanted a way to get the word out quickly about that work as well as to create a space to have timely discussions online.

Currently there is a lot of information being released through different venues related to the CCSS. For example, Education Week’s Learning the Language blog, written by Lesli Maxwell, covers many CCSS related news items. Yet there has not been one widely-read blog that exclusively focuses on the CCSS for ELLs until now.  And so, with the generous support from the American Federation of Teachers’ Innovation Fund, here we are!

The Blog’s Purpose

As you most likely are aware, many states have adopted the CCSS in English language arts/literacy and mathematics as the basis for their content standards. In addition, around eleven percent of all school-aged children are ELLs, and the number of language minority school-aged children is projected to rise to forty percent by 2030.

ELLs are no longer the sole responsibility of the ESOL, ESL, or bilingual education teacher. ELLs are everyone’s kids, and with the implementation of the CCSS, it is of even more importance that we ensure ELLs receive not only an equitable but also an excellent education. We know that the way in which ELLs access and work with the CCSS will not be the same as for native English speakers, and this blog will help focus the national conversation around the strengths as well as unique challenges of implementing the CCSS for ELLs.

This blog will serve several purposes:

  • To give teachers and administrators information that will serve them as they implement the CCSS with their school, district, or state's ELLs
  • To provide updates for researchers and policymakers as they help shape the landscape in which the CCSS are implemented for ELLs
  • To share information with parents of ELLs so that they have a voice in this conversation
  • To bring together the various stakeholders involved in ELL education by highlighting recent developments in organized efforts from across the country, such as the Understanding Language project, to ensure that ELLs and their teachers are supported as they work with the CCSS
  • To shine a light on best practices and innovative, thoughtful approaches to implementing the CCSS for ELLs that are now taking place in various grassroots efforts across the country
  • To share new resources and lesson plans that are worth passing on as they are made available
  • To offer an opportunity for discussion around the relationship between English language proficiency/development standards and the CCSS
  • To reflect on the ways that language and language instruction are intertwined with the CCSS themselves

This blog will cover as many of these efforts as possible each week, and I encourage you to contact Colorín Colorado ([email protected]) with any news of what you, your school, district, state, university, or organization is up to in terms of implementing the CCSS for ELLs.

A Little Bit About Me

As for me, I'm a former English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) teacher and English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teacher who later earned my doctorate in Multilingual/Multicultural Education with an emphasis in Literacy. My small business, located in the Washington, DC area, works with states, districts, universities, museums, and organizations to ensure that ELLs succeed and that those who educate them have the tools they need to make that happen. Much of my recent work has been around the implementation CCSS for ELLs, and I have been privy to many conversations taking place across the country related to how to give ELLs the best chance to achieve the CCSS.

I see myself as an advocate for ELLs through all of the work I do, and I envision this blog as a way for us to come together across the nation to share information, have thoughtful conversations, and collaborate to ensure that everyone who works with ELLs seizes this opportunity to improve the educational landscape for ELLs. Thank you for joining me on this journey.



Hi, Diane. You're a great person to have the job of checking the pulse of what's happening with the common core. I've bookmarked your blog and I look forward to seeing what particular school districts are doing to carry out the Common Core standards for ELLs. I refer to the Common Core standards for writing about history in planning my history classes for ELLs. But I'd like to know more about what teachers are doing in developmental language classes to implement Common Core. At my school, ELLs are enrolled in both a sheltered English class (that meets the English requirement for high school grad) and an ESL class (that focuses more on reading informational texts rather than literature and is matched with students' proficiency level in English on the WIDA test). For the ESL class, I'm charged with using WIDA standards. I move between WIDA and Common Core for language arts in planning. It can get confusing. Mary Ann Zehr, high school ESL teacher

Hi Mary Ann,

Thanks for your interest in the blog, especially since you are a former blogger about ELL issues for Learning the Language and know this area very well. I'll be sure to keep my eye out for what school districts and teachers are doing on the ground in terms of CCSS implementation. Also, please feel free to share any lessons you've prepared for your students with me if you'd like to make them available to other

Dear Diane - Congratulations on your new blog! What a great resource for the field. It just so happens that #ELLCHAT - the weekly twitter chat on teaching English language learners - will be talking about ELLs and the Common Core on Monday, October 29 at 9:00 eastern time. We'll be referring to this blog and we hope you and your readers will join the chat.

Hi Karen,

I'll be there Monday night at 9:00 p.m. eastern. Thanks for mentioning the great work you're doing in connecting teachers of ELLs! - Diane

Thank you for taking up this effort.

I just wanted to make a comment on your prediction from the Census Bureau that 40 percent of students will be ELLs by 2030. I'm familiar with data on this topic from the Census Bureau, and I can assure you that this prediction wasn't produced by them. I checked your link, but the paper by Thomas and Collier does not give a citation for the 40 percent estimate. I hope you can track this down, because the projections I've seen don't show much growth in the next decade or so.

Hi Kurt,

Thanks for your interest and question. You can find the numbers I cited on page 1 of the executive summary. Ginger Collier was my professor at George Mason University, and I will check in with her on the source for the data she and Wayne Thomas referred to in this study. Please feel free to share any recent predictions you are privy to with Colorin Colorado. - Diane

I updated the post to reflect that language minorities (not just ELLs) will comprise at least 40% of the school-age population by the 2030s. This projection is based on Berliner & Biddle, 1995.

Hi Diane,

This blog is a wonderful idea to get educators to dicuss this topic and share advice and ideas.

I, for one, am glad that the rest of the education world has caught up to what the field of English Language Learning has been crying out for years: It's not necessarily the content. It's the language (academic language to be specific). Finally our field has the fuller base of background knowledge and research to tackle this problem. CCSS tell us that students may not be able to solve a math story problem because they do not understand the academic lanugage of math and that that specific math language must be intentionally taught. Doesn't this all sound familiar?

The October issue of TESOL Connections included an article authored by Judy O'Loughlin and I. I urge you to look over it. The article takes the 2006 TESOL PreK-12 ELP Standards and CCSS and shows how the development of academic language for all students can be "broken down" across a continuum of language development. For WIDA members, since the WIDA and TESOL framework are identical, the system is the same.

Hi Lynore,

Thanks for sharing this information. I knew you and Judy were working on this and am happy to see it's been published. I will be sure to take a look.


Hi Diane - I'm an English Language Development Specialist working to support schools as they go through the school improvement process under the MN ESEA waiver. The work in aligning the CCSS and ELD standards is very important and this blog will be SO helpful. We've begun an ELD standards implementation team in the metro area and I look forward to following you to get updates on what's working in other areas. I'll also share our successes as well. I'm a member of the AFT's ELL Cadre and I hope I get a chance to meet you in the future!

Happy blogging!


Hi Kristina,

Thanks for your comment and for telling us about the hard work you're doing in Minnesota. Please do share your successes so we can all celebrate them - and send me any materials you create so we can share them with other teachers.


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