Promising and Effective Practices for Specific Populations of English Learners Grades Pre-K to 12
The statement of task for this study (see Chapter 1) includes a review of programs for specific populations of English learners (ELs).1 Accordingly, this chapter describes programs focused on ELs who are gifted and talented; living in migrant families that work in food-production industries; and living on tribal lands, specifically, American Indians and Alaska Natives. Chapter 10 provides an extensive discussion of ELs with disabilities. The committee searched for a body of evidence on promising practices for ELs who are homeless and who are unaccompanied or undocumented minors; however, such evidence generally is not specific to these populations or is lacking altogether. Thus the committee notes that systematic evaluations of practices with these specific populations are needed (see Chapter 13 for the research agenda developed by the committee).
GIFTED AND TALENTED ENGLISH LEARNERS
The underrepresentation of ELs—who are included under the umbrella term of culturally, linguistically, and ethnically diverse (CLED)—in gifted education programs has been a long-standing concern of researchers and educators (Baldwin et al., 1978; Ford et al., 2008; Lohman, 2005; Oakland and Rossen, 2005). Despite increasing recognition of the need to reform and enhance education for CLED students (Briggs et al., 2008; Harris et al., 2009), issues of overidentification for remedial classes and underiden-
1 When referring to children aged 5 or older in the pre-K to 12 education system, this report uses the term “English learners” or “ELs” (see Box 1-1 in Chapter 1 for details).
tification for gifted programs remain (National Research Council, 2002). Although it has been estimated that 10 percent of those enrolled in gifted programs are CLED students (Gallagher, 2002), more recent estimates of just the EL population in school year 2011-2012 showed that only 2.7 percent of all public school students were identified as both ELs and gifted (U.S. Department of Education, 2012).
Variations in State Policies
According to the National Association for Gifted Children (2015), states vary with respect to policies aimed at the inclusion of ELs in gifted programs, as well as how they report EL status. McClain and Pfeiffer (2012) interviewed state gifted program coordinators and found that only 26 states had any policies for the inclusion of diverse populations. Moreover, whereas 20 states report race and ethnicity data on gifted programs, only 12 report information regarding EL status. Of those 12 states, 7 had identification rates of 1 percent or less; Colorado had the highest reported percentage of identified EL gifted students at 4.58 percent (National Association for Gifted Children, 2015).
Increased Identification of Gifted ELs and Their Access to Gifted Programs
Research on increasing the identification of gifted ELs and their access to gifted programs has focused on a variety of topics, including identification and selection procedures (Ford et al., 2008), test bias (Ford et al., 2008; Naglieri and Ford, 2003), professional development in teacher education programs (Ford and Trotman, 2001), and the fostering of multicultural educational reform (Bernal, 2001; Ford et al., 2008). Research to date suggests that the three factors with the greatest influence on the identification of ELs for gifted programs are (1) the assessment tools used, including measures of real-life problem solving (Reid et al., 1999; Sarouphim, 2002); (2) teacher preparation and professional development, which leads to a reduction in educator bias; and (3) district-level support (Briggs et al., 2008; Harris et al., 2009). Despite the limited evidence on the effects of programs for gifted ELs, the gifted education field is taking steps toward addressing issues of equity and access, especially for EL populations, but much more effort in this area is required (National Association for Gifted Children, 2011).
MIGRANT ENGLISH LEARNERS
Migrant students are children and youth who accompany parents and families as they relocate for seasonal or temporary employment in agriculture or fishing. These annual migrations from place to place, often across state lines, result in major disruptions in students’ educational experiences. Migrant students also are deeply affected by poverty, with an average family income ranging from $17,500 to $19,999 per year, inadequate health care, crowded and poor housing, and the social and cultural isolation related to their transiency (National Center for Farmworker Health, 2016).
A recent review of the research on migrant education commissioned by the Office of Migrant Education (2011) indicates that there are approximately 470,000 school-aged migrant students (with 35 percent considered ELs and another 15 percent “out-of-school” youth ages 16-21 who have not completed but are no longer attending school). They speak primarily Spanish (81%).
School districts in states with migrant students are responsible for serving them for as long they as are in residence. These states receive funds for migrant education from the U.S. Department of Education’s Migrant Education Program, which was first established under an amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in 1966. Funds are allocated to states under a formula based on each state’s per pupil expenditure for migrant education and the numbers of eligible children in the state aged 3-21. These supplemental funds are intended to provide services in addition to those provided by the school districts and are critical supports for those schools in which migrant students are in residence for just part of the school year. Schools in the communities where migrant students register must first identify them as migrants and then assess their educational and linguistic status for placement in school and access to services.
The statute under which migrant education is mandated calls for the coordination of services across states. The Consortium for Quality and Consistency in Identification and Recruitment (ConQIR), with New York as the lead state, was established to provide inter- and intrastate coordination among the 12 states in the consortium (Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Vermont); four collaborating states (Florida, Kansas, Montana, and Nebraska); the Office of Migrant Education (OME); and federal migrant centers, parents, and migrant employers (Consortium for Quality and Consistency in Identification and Recruitment, 2016).
The federally funded, computerized Migrant Student Record Transfer System was created in 1969 (Lunon, 1986) to transfer student information, test scores, immunization records, and grade placement across states
and districts. This low-tech but effective alternative way for transferring school records took the form of hand-carried packets, which students or parents picked up before departing one school and hand-delivered to the next one. The U.S. Department of Education was mandated by Congress as part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 to provide assistance to states to develop effective methods for the transfer of student records and to determine the number of migrant children in each state (U.S. Department of Education, 2016). This system is called the Migrant Student Records Exchange Initiative (MSIX).
Services for Migrant Students
Services for migrant students vary considerably, with some states and districts having well-planned and coordinated services and others whose programs and services are less adequate. Migrant programs must address varied needs of students from pre-K through high school in a variety of programs. The adequacy of programs across this grade range depends on the availability of teachers with the training to meet the special educational and linguistic needs of migrant students. Because these students are in residence for only part of each school year in the schools they attend, they are placed in classes that have openings. In many places, schools depend on teachers who are assigned to provide supplemental language and academic services, such as instruction in English as a second language (ESL), and to fill gaps in learning that result from missed instruction time or curricular differences in the schools they have attended.
Migrant Educational Centers
State and regional migrant educational centers, many of them federally funded by the Migrant Education Program (MEP), provide valuable and necessary support to schools and directly to students in their areas. So, too, do nonprofit organizations such as the Geneseo Migrant Center in Leicester, New York, which sponsors the Migrant Library, a source for literature and other materials on migrant farmworkers that can be used by students as well as by teachers who want to learn more about the migrant experience (Geneseo Migrant Center, n.d.-a). The Geneseo organization maintains a list of migrant education centers and links to various health, legal, and parent education publications in support of the education of migrant students. Another such organization is the Interstate Migrant Education Council (IMEC), which works at the policy level to develop recommendations for improving educational programs for migrant students.
Promising Strategies for Addressing Disruptions in Schooling
The most comprehensive and recent study on promising strategies for addressing migrant students’ disruptions in schooling was conducted by researchers at The George Washington University’s Center for Equity and Excellence in Education (Goniprow et al., 2002) for the U.S. Department of Education’s Planning and Evaluation Service. The aim of this study was to identify promising strategies for ameliorating the potential detrimental effects of disruptions in schooling on the academic performance of migrant students. The research focused on case studies of school districts in Arizona, California, Michigan, Montana, Texas, and Washington that shared students who moved back and forth between them. Districts that shared students, characterized as “trading partners,” were nominated by state directors of migrant education programs as exemplary in their sharing of information, their service delivery, and their mechanisms for coordination. The researchers examined efforts to promote academic continuity and progress for students among partner districts and identified common themes in successful solutions: “shared vision of the role of migrant education, emphasis on program alignment between trading partners, use of technology, value of personal relationships, and importance of leadership” (p. ii).
Goniprow and colleagues (2002) found further that recognition of the unique challenges faced by migrant students was critical, as was the need to align the curricular content of programs for students as they moved from one locale to another. They noted the importance of personal connections among leaders in state agencies responsible for migrant education for facilitating coordination among states, as well as the key roles played by state directors in encouraging interstate activities. The use of technology was identified as important for rapid access to student information needed for placement, and for providing instruction for difficult-to-reach students (e.g., those who could not attend school because they were working or caring for younger siblings). At the time of this study (2002), the use of technology for instruction was relatively limited, but the report mentions as promising the Texas Education Agency’s distance learning program for migrant students, SMART, broadcast by satellite from Texas for 8 weeks during the summer, and NovaNET, a nationwide computer-based curriculum.
The authors also found that supplemental educational strategies, such as tutorial programs and evening classes, were provided to help students catch up and complete their coursework. Technology was used to help students keep in touch via email with classmates in the schools they attended, thereby helping to alleviate disruptions in friendships as they moved from school to school.
Migrant Students in High Schools
Migrant students at the secondary level face additional challenges in completing school successfully. Their frequent moves and the loss of instructional time between moves make course completion and accrual of credits for graduation difficult. The Portable Assisted Study Sequence (PASS) program, described as a self-contained, semi-independent study course for secondary students, provides materials that out-of-school students can access online, depending on the availability of computers and the Internet (Geneseo Migrant Center, n.d.-b). For out-of-school youth, OME’s Graduation and Outcomes for Success for Out-of-School Youth (GOSOSY) program develops and delivers services to help migrant students access federal or state educational resources (Graduation and Outcomes for Success for OSY, 2016).
ENGLISH LEARNERS LIVING ON TRIBAL LANDS
According to Ethnologue,2 speakers remain for only 216 of the perhaps 1,000 indigenous heritage languages once spoken among American Indians and Alaska Natives in North America (Lewis, Simons, and Fennig, 2015), and all but a handful are “moribund” (Krauss, 1992). Few of these languages have more than 10,000 speakers. Navajo has an estimated 169,471 speakers;3 Cree, 70,000;4 Ojibwa, approximately 41,000, with 8,371 in the United States3 and 32,460 in Canada;5 Dakota, 18,616;3 Apache, 13,063;3 Keres, 12,945;3 Cherokee, 11,610;3 and Choctaw, 10,343.3 Of the 19 indigenous languages of Alaska, only Yup’ik, with 10,400 speakers of Central Yup’ik6 and 1,000 speakers of Siberian Yup’ik, can be considered relatively safe from extinction (Alaska Native Language Center, 2016).
Language revitalization is a matter of extreme urgency for members of communities whose languages are in danger of extinction (see Box 9-1). There is little disagreement on this point among these community members, but the question is who can teach these languages to children in school. Schools may not have teachers familiar with the community’s indigenous
2Ethnologue: Languages of the World is a publication of the Summer Institute of Linguistics. It is a comprehensive reference work cataloguing all of the world’s known languages. See https://www.ethnologue.com/statistics/country [January 19, 2017].
3 See Siebens and Julian (2011).
4 Cree has the largest speaker population of Canada’s First Nations peoples. It has an estimated 70,000 speakers across southern Canada and northern Montana (see http://www.nativelanguages.org/cree.htm [June 27, 2017]), where they share tribal lands with the Chippewa (see http://tribalnations.mt.gov/chippewacree [June 27, 2017]).
5 See Statistics Canada (2007).
6 The Alaska Native Language Center offers separate counts for Central Yup’ik and Siberian Yup’ik. See https://www.uaf.edu/anlc/languages/stats [February 20, 2017].
heritage language, and in communities where the remaining speakers are elderly or in fragile health, this is a problem that cannot be solved easily.7 The problem of revitalization is more complex in Native communities that prefer keeping their languages solely as spoken when there are few remaining speakers, as in the cases of the Pueblo Peoples of New Mexico.8 In such communities, the language can be learned only from speakers, thus making
7 At a community meeting in a rural Alaskan village that was held to find ways to stem the impending loss of three Alaskan Indian languages, attendees were asked who was a speaker of one of those languages. Of perhaps 100 people at the meeting, fewer than a dozen raised their hands. Several were in wheelchairs; some had oxygen tanks beside them; all of them were elderly. They had come from villages that were as far as 150 miles from the place where the meeting was being held.
8 Dr. Christine Sims’ comments at a public information-gathering session held by the committee at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center in Irvine, California, on October 8, 2015.
it even more urgent to bring those who can learn the language most rapidly and easily—children—together with adults who can provide access to the language and support for learning it. In New Mexico, some of the pueblos have provided teachers for the public schools so that children can have daily pull-out classes for heritage language lessons, but this has proven to be a controversial use of school time (Sims, 2006). Many educators question whether students who are struggling academically should be spending time learning a language that appears to have no bearing on the school’s curriculum.
The inclusion of culture in the curriculum for American Indian students is less controversial and more acceptable, although there are competing views as to just what that means and how native languages, an integral part of culture, should be incorporated into classroom instruction. The incorporation of culture is sometimes seen as the use of curricular materials: the history, songs, stories, and arts and crafts of a people. A broader view encompasses the relationships that exist between teachers and students, the environments in which learning is possible and occurs, the purposes for learning and education, and beliefs about what learning and knowing mean and how they happen. The term “culture-based education” describes an approach that is frequently mentioned as a means of improving instruction for Native students. Examples of such programs include The Ways, an innovative online educational program providing stories, videos, interactive maps, and educational materials for American Indian nations and schools serving communities around the central Great Lakes.9 Another such effort is the culturally infused math curriculum program that raised math outcomes for students in rural Alaska (Kisker et al., 2012; Lipka and Ilutsik, 2014).
In a survey of programs described as culture-based education, Beaulieu (2006) found that two-thirds were not culturally related—many were after-school tutoring, homework assistance, or enrichment programs that were not culturally focused. The programs that did appear to be culturally based were ones that (1) taught culturally relevant materials on Native history and civics, such as tribal government and treaties; (2) taught culturally relevant materials through the indigenous language; (3) taught the indigenous language in immersion classes; (4) made use of culturally relevant materials, such as stories that reflected students’ heritage and experiences; and (5) offered cultural enrichment through pow-wows, presentations by tribal members, and arts and crafts experiences. Such experiences are available primarily in schools with a high density of Native students; they are few and far between in schools where Native students are in the minority. Beaulieu (2006) cautions, however, that what counts is not just what is taught, but
9 Produced by the Wisconsin Media Lab (http://theways.org [September 28, 2016]).
the human relationships and social and communicative interactions and activities in which instruction is embedded.
Research on the effectiveness of language revitalization programs remains limited, in part because of the lack of valid and appropriate measures for programs developed for tribal groups that are small in number. Questions remain regarding how to measure the effectiveness of such programs that not only have linguistic goals but also aim to influence students’ sense of self-worth, self-efficacy, belonging to their tribal nations, and trust in others.
The paucity of evidence on the effectiveness of language revitalization programs was addressed in an executive order calling for establishment of an interagency working group.10 This group was tasked to compile data on the academic achievement of American Indian and Alaska Native students relative to the No Child Left Behind Act, to identify and disseminate research-based practices for improving their academic achievement, and to assess the impact and role of native language and culture with respect to strategies for improving their academic achievement and school completion. As part of the research undertaken by the working group, a Program Evaluation Group was commissioned to conduct a review of promising programs and practices. This group found that, in addition to promoting indigenous self-determination, such programs and practices should enable students to achieve academic parity with other students; prepare them to participate in their tribal communities and in the larger world as well; contribute to their personal well-being; promote positive, trusting relationships between school and home; and help promote integrated school experiences that “facilitate learners’ self-efficacy, critical capacities, and intrinsic motivation as thinkers, readers, writers, and ethical social agents” (McCarty and Wiley Snell, 2011, p. 4).
Language revitalization programs operate with many constraints and challenges. For example, a serious issue is the availability of teachers who know a specific native language well enough to use it to teach school subjects and are capable of designing instructional strategies that are socially and culturally compatible. Another challenge faced until recently was the constant pressure schools faced to show student progress through improved test scores on mandated achievement tests administered in English as required by the No Child Left Behind Act (Beaulieu et al., 2005; Reyhner and Hurtado, 2008).
Despite the above constraints and challenges, the Program Evaluation
10 Executive Order 13336 of April 30, 2004 (Federal Register, Vol. 69, No. 87 [May 5, 2004] Presidential Documents). The agencies represented in this working group were from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Education, Health and Human Services, the Interior, and Justice, as well as other agencies designated by the working group.
Group found evidence that certain language revitalization programs have a positive impact on student achievement. They found that “strong, additive, and academically rigorous Native language and culture (NLC) programs11 have salutary effects” (McCarty and Wiley Snell, 2011, p. 14) on language maintenance and student achievement, while weak, subtractive programs do not. The group emphasized that a minimum of 4-7 years is required for students to develop the age-appropriate language skills needed for academic learning in either English or an indigenous language. It also found that time spent learning school subjects in “strong” programs did not detract from learning English, and in fact, students in such programs performed as well as or better than peers in mainstream classes (McCarty and Wiley Snell, 2011). Most important, the group found that when parents and community leaders make decisions themselves regarding content, process, and medium of instruction, Native language and culture programs “enhance student motivation, self-esteem, and ethnic pride” and provide opportunities for parents and elders to participate in student learning, thereby bringing the community and school together (McCarty and Wiley Snell, 2011, pp. 14-15). Box 9-2 describes a language revitalization program that can serve as an exemplar.
In general, a fundamental tension exists between what tribal groups regard as essential for the education of their children for full participation in their communities and what they recognize as essential for full participation in the larger society as well. Many if not most indigenous communities regard language and cultural revitalization as key to maintaining or restoring the health and vitality of communities that have undergone dramatic shifts and loss of resources over the past century and a half, but they also regard as equally important the skills and knowledge that the society expects from all children and the English skills required for academic advancement as defined by the education system.
Conclusion 9-1: English learners are a highly diverse group of students. There is a lack of research that explores the interactions between instructional methods and such student characteristics as language background, age, levels of proficiency and content area knowledge, and special needs.
11 The Program Evaluation Group characterized “strong additive programs” as those providing instructional support in both the indigenous language and English, and identified dual language programs as examples of such programs. In contrast, the researchers characterized pull-out programs offering limited support in the indigenous language as “weaker programs” leading to subtractive bilingualism, wherein students tend to put aside the indigenous language and move toward English only.
Conclusion 9-2: The reclamation of indigenous heritage languages is an important goal for many American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Some school systems see this goal as being in conflict with the school’s efforts to promote English language and literacy. However, the evidence indicates that participation in strong language revitalization programs can have a positive impact on student achievement in school.
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