Why Teachers Should Read the ELPD Framework

I was recently asked by Larry Ferlazzo to answer this question for his blog: How can ESL teachers use the CCSS to teach their ELLs?

One of my six suggestions, which will be posted soon in Larry’s upcoming blog, is for ESL teachers to look at the Framework for English Language Proficiency Development Standards Corresponding to the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards to get a better grasp of the language needed to bridge their ELLs’ success achieving the CCSS.

In case you’re not already familiar with it, the Council for Chief School Officers states that the ELPD Framework “outlines the underlying English language practices found in the CCSS and the NGSS, communicates to ELL stakeholders the language that all ELLs must acquire in order to successfully engage the CCSS and NGSS, and specifies a procedure by which to evaluate the degree of alignment present between the Framework and ELP standards under consideration or adopted by states.”

But what does that mean for teachers?

I recently took part in a webinar hosted by the Council for Chief School Officers and moderated by Katey McGettrick titled English Language Learners and English Language Arts: Using the ELPD Framework. Since the ELPD Framework is not specifically written with the teacher audience in mind, I asked Aida Walqui and Amanda Kibler, two of the webinar’s presenters and authors of the ELPD framework, what the Framework’s take-aways are for ESL teachers as well as content area or general education teachers.

Some highlights of the ELPD Framework webinar that may resonate with teachers of ELLs are:

  • If we go back in history, and unfortunately still present in the minds of many teachers, is that they’re language, not content teachers, or vice versa. (Some teachers may think), “I teach my subject matter, not language.” The ELPD Framework and the CCSS ensure that every teacher of a discipline is socializing ELLs into the ways of thinking, writing, and speaking in the discipline and into the texts which guide how students read and write, which is different across purposes and genres.
  • The tables contained in the ELPD Framework help unpack the implicit demands of the key CCSS practices. Content teachers may not have thought deeply about implicit language required to enact those practices. For ESL teachers, seeing receptive and productive language functions helps ensure their instruction helps support these functions across the content areas.
  • In the past, ESL teachers tended to focus a lot on grammatical forms. In the future, forms alone won’t help ELLs. The ELPD Framework does provide guidelines for connections to the classroom, but in the classroom, we can’t possibly require absolute grammatical perfection. We’re not aiming to correct every single error the ELL student produces. Rather, we need to check in to the apprenticing of ideas and of ways of expressing those ideas.
  • The ELPD Framework is an opportunity to look at how teachers might collaborate and see that the language demands in the CCSS can inform the learning of ELLs and their language acquisition - and that these two things are intertwined. The ELPD Framework can foster the discussion of what best practice is for ELLs.

I’m sold! I think I’ll give the ELPD Framework yet another look, and I hope you do, too.


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Hello Diane,

Thank you for this helpful preview for teachers of the ELPD Framework. I've looked at the Framework, as I understand that it will be influential in the development of new standards, but its classroom applications aren't clear to me yet. I'm looking forward to more information from its authors. I do have two questions based on my initial reading:

I'm thrilled about the emphasis on communicative competence but nervous about the interpretation that grammatical accuracy will no longer be required of ELLs. It will be expected of them in college and in most future careers, and where are they to learn it if not from their ESL teachers? The sentence-level, non-native errors that most ELLs make (one of my 7th graders today: "I didn't went trick or treating,") are best addressed by the ESL teacher with training in second language acquisition. Don't the high standards and rigor of the CCSS have to include preparing ELLs to speak and write accurately and grammatically?

As a secondary ESL teacher who sees her ELL students for 50 minutes or so every day during a regular class period, I'm confused about how the instruction of the discipline-specific language will happen. I do integrate as much content vocabulary into my units as I can, but how much (and which!?) math, science and social studies language will ESL teachers be expected to teach? Will the annual ELP exams, with high stakes for my students and for me, have more discipline-specific language? I picture myself trying to work hundreds of words like "integer" "pilgrim" and "biosphere" into a year's worth of meaningful units and then the test asks about something else entirely, like the "Spanish Inquisition."

I am very much on board with sociocultural theory but looking forward to getting clarity on some of these burning questions and seeing real world examples of the Framework applied in the classroom.

Page, Middle School ELL Teacher

Thanks Diane for the blog and information.
Page, I think you bring up good points about the application of the ELPD Framework to the classroom. It is clear that integration of academic language and academic content is essential, but what content language should ELP tests be measuring. If academic language is specific to a given unit of study, can it or should be realistically assessed in a large-scale ELP assessments. As a teacher in a WIDA State, I have asked that WIDA be clear on the academic language that it assessing in the ACCESS for ELLs, but I don't think such transparency is possible. Unilke Content tests, such as Math and LA that are very transparent in their assessment of academic standards and content, ELP tests such as the ACCESS are very vague in connecting assessment items to specific languages skills and knowledge. WIDA, for example, tests the Language of Math, but it unclear what language of math it is testing.

This may come back to the fact that we still do have a clear construct or theory of academic language development on which to base ELP Standards and assessments. The ELPD framework advocates "The theory used in the development of the state ELP standards should offer a clear and coherent
conceptualization of language as well as the second language acquisition process (page 5). " We have not done this in any ELP standards and the examples at the end of the ELPD Framework Understanding Language and the WIDA FLARE project purport to have such theoretical underpinnings in their examples, but neither example is solidly research based.

I also feel that many ELL teachers have been moving away from prescriptive grammatical instruction and infuse grammatical and other specific language instruction into authentic communicative activities. This is an important practice that should continue. It is clear that the ELPD Framework and ELD Standards such as WIDA see language best learned in content classrooms, and advocate a changing role of ELL teacher to be a collaborator in the integration of language and content instruction in grade level classrooms rather than the solely teaching language. While I support the increasing role of classroom teacher in addressing language demands and the increasing role of the ELL teacher in this process, I am not convinced that there is no place for focused language instruction (using content topics/themes) for students from an ELL teacher

Thanks for your thoughts, Mark. I'm hoping we will get clarification on some of these questions soon in the upcoming conversations sponsored by the AFT on the CCSS and ELLs.

The ELP standards don't seem to be clear about who is meant to teach what to whom, but school districts, often in partnership with NEA and AFT affiliates, are already piloting and implementing new systems that link teacher evaluation to student test scores. Though many testing experts are urging caution in applying value-added assessments to teacher evaluation systems (Ed Week 10-25-12), states are "racing" to adopt these methods.

In the rush to reform and with budget shortfalls affecting districts around the country, there is potential for a perfect storm here. Our ELLs too often sit in crowded, under-resourced classrooms where they fall behind year after year, and the problem is urgent. They desperately need our attention, but they need us to do it right without unfairly punishing the teachers who struggle to help them.

Page, Middle School ELL Teacher

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