December 8, 2014
Four years ago, when states set out to create rigorous standards to ensure each student graduates college- and career-ready, they meant all students. We knew all students would face challenges, whether it was an advanced high school junior or a classmate who struggled with English. This was a foundational consideration, albeit it a daunting one.
Still, as state leaders, we refused to set low expectations for any child.
Some said the standards would be too challenging for English Language Learners. Chiefs and governors were unmoved. They firmly held that English Language Learners (ELLs) should have the same expectations as all other students because they deserve the same learning opportunities.
Certainly, ELLs need more support as they make the transition, but it’s essential that they engage as soon as possible with the same challenging materials.
Rather than compromising expectations for these students, support has to come through application. How the standards are taught for ELLs may look different, but what students are taught should be the same. Civil rights groups were important partners with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association in developing guidance on how these standards can be applied.
We are already seeing early signs of success. A recent report from Education Trust-West showed that several school districts that set rigorous expectations and implemented curriculum aligned with the Common Core State Standards have seen greater success academically with ELL students.
CCSSO’s commitment to the success of ELLs has not waned. Today, we facilitate much work in this area as states are implementing these standards in the classroom. Our Implementing the Common Core State Standards (ICCS) collaborative is comprised of 34 states that work with coaches on their implementation plans, including administration of the standards for ELLs.
Another working group of 27 states focuses solely on improving learning for ELL students, including through the implementation of the standards. Additionally, CCSSO created the ELL Assessment Advisory Consortium in 2012 to advise the two Common Core Assessment consortia – PARCC and Smarter Balanced – on how to provide ELLs fair access to their assessments.
Finally, CCSSO has also taken a large role in creating standards for English language proficiency. We developed the English Language Proficiency Development (ELPD) Framework in 2012, working with lead writers of the Common Core as well as language development specialists. This framework identified the language practices that ELLs need to be successful with Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards.
These new ELP standards are the basis of the ELPA21 assessment that several states are now using to measure English language proficiency.
In the end, these multiple projects serve a single mission. They work to make sure every state is creating seamless policies and technical guidance that will make sure every student graduates from high school prepared for college, careers and life, no matter the barriers they face.
Chris Minnich can be reached on Twitter at @minnichc.
To learn more about English Learner Success, visit The Hunt Institute’s ELL resources Web page. Join us at The Intersection by subscribing here.