In 1974 the Lau v. Nichols Supreme Court decision stated: “There is no equality of treatment merely by providing students with the same facilities, textbooks, teachers and curriculum… for students who do not understand English are effectively foreclosed from any meaningful education.”
Nearly 50 years later, we have concrete research, policies, and pedagogy to support and enhance the oral and written acquisition and development of English for English language learners and emergent bilingual learners (ELLs/EBLs). On Sept. 21, 2022, the Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition presented a webinar called “Effective Literacy Instruction for Multilingual Learners: What It Is and What It Looks Like.” These are some of the data that they presented:
- “One in ten students nationwide have a home language other than English and are learning English as a second language (English language learners/bilingual learners/dual language learners)
- English language learners have been the recipients of many ‘reforms’ but research about them is rarely built upon when literacy reforms are created and implemented.
- Outcomes have been disappointing. Gaps maintained.
- We HAVE a strong research base upon which to build effective literacy approaches for ELLs.”
Based on the above statements, we do not need any reforms that seek to impose a one-size-fits-all remedy for our ELLS/EBLs. This is what Science of Reading (SOR) seeks to do.
Also as noted: “We HAVE a strong research base upon which to build effective literacy approaches for ELLs.”
In fact, in 2006, the National Literacy Panel of Language-Minority Children and Youth’s findings included that:
- The five National Reading Panel components of reading instruction (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension) were not sufficient for ELLs to become proficient readers;
- Second-language speech and literacy development are different from monolingual development;
- ESL/ELD is an important component;
- The home language has an important role, as do cross-language interactions;
- There is viability in dual language approaches;
- Oral language is a foundation for
- Any approach must include the integration of the four domains of language;
- Meaning making and comprehension play key roles.
The National Committee for Effective Literacy (NCEL) “uplifts research, policies, and practices to ensure that English learners/emergent bilingual learners leave school as proficient readers and writers in English—and preferably more languages—and who thrive and succeed in school and their communities.”
On their website, www.MultiLingualLiteracy.org, one can find a recent white paper, the OELA webinar, and other key resources including effective instructional practices and effective literacy models for ELLs/EBLs. Read their white paper to find out why a one-size-fits-all approach to reading instruction will not work for English learners and other multilingual children.
- Provide professional development for teachers on effective instructional practices in language development and literacy for ELLs and EBLs.
- Fund and conduct longitudinal research that documents ELL/EBL acquisition and development of beginning literacy in L1 and L2 instructional settings that include content areas.
- Expand dual language and biliteracy programs
Dr. Barbara Flores is president of California Association for Bilingual Education.