According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the percentage of English language learners (ELLs) in PreK-12 in the United States was just over 10 percent or approximately 4.9 million students in 2013-14. The top three languages spoken by ELLs are Spanish, Arabic, and Chinese. The Annenberg Institute notes that the numbers of ELLs in the United States increased by 18% from 2000-01 to 2010-11.
Despite the increasing numbers of ELLs in US schools, when the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were first published in 2010, they did not include much guidance for diverse student populations. The Standards’ developers did acknowledge the importance of considering the needs of ELLs when implementing the Standards through their release of a brief addendum to the Standards, and there was a separate addendum for special education students, as well.
Nevertheless, that guidance did not provide a roadmap for how the CCSS related to English language proficiency (ELP) or English language development (ELD) standards; it also provided no help for appropriate uses of language for students of different proficiency levels when working toward the CCSS. Subsequently, many voices of ELL teachers, researchers, policymakers, and other practitioners have contributed to the discussion of what we should keep in mind when implementing the CCSS with this unique population of students. TESOL International Association’s Overview of the Common Core State Standards Initiatives for ELLs issue brief (2013) provides an excellent resource to understand the development of the CCSS in general and their implementation for ELLs.
This four-part blog post series will offer guidelines on:
- The Three Shifts and ELLs (in this post)
- Criteria for Curricular Materials Labeled as Appropriate for ELLs
- Where to Find High-Quality Curricular Materials in the Public Domain
- What to Do When High-Level Curricular Materials for ELLs Are Not Available
These blog posts are written for all teachers of ELLs, administrators, and other practitioners and can be used as a thrifty reference guide for collaboration, curriculum planning, and professional development.
When thinking of what is important when implementing the CCSS with ELLs at a very high level, I like to ground my thoughts in the three Shifts in the CCSS for English Language Arts & Literacy and adapt those Shifts to encompass what all teachers must do to address the Shifts with their ELLs. While I recognize that ELLs also take part in CCSS-aligned mathematics instruction, a close examination of how to address the ELA & Literacy Shifts is a good place to start. In addition, the components of the Shifts are transferable to other subject areas.
Three Shifts: What All Teachers of ELLs Must Do, and Strategies
|CCSS for ELA & Literacy Shift||To Address This Shift, all Teachers of ELLs Must Be Able to…||Strategies that Cut Across All Shifts|
|Regular practice with complex text and its academic language||
|Reading, writing, and speaking grounded in evidence from both literary and informational text||
|Building knowledge through content-rich nonfiction||
Staehr Fenner, (2013). Adapted from http://achievethecore.org/content/upload/122113_Shifts.pdf – originally in TESOL (2013) white paper – adapted more for this publication.
Now that you have a sense of what all teachers of ELLs (not only the English as a Second Language teacher) must do to ensure they’re addressing the Shifts, take a minute to reflect on your own practice. What do the Shifts mean for you in your work with ELLs? How are you collaborating with other teachers to draw upon the strengths of ELL students and meet their needs?