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1 Overview American education has, until recently, focused primarily on meeting the needs of native English-speaking children. However, a large and growing number of students in U.S. schools come from homes where the language background is other than English. These limited-English-proficient (LEP) students are overwhelmingly from families with low incomes and lower levels of formal education. Thirty years ago these students were expected to "sink or swim" in a school environment that did not pay particular attention to their linguistic background. This approach continued until just a few decades ago, when the proportion of LEP students began to increase substantially. Since the 1970s, a variety of educational approaches to meeting the needs of English-language learners have been tried.1 These approaches are designed to help these students develop proficiency in English, as well as learn the knowledge and skills that make up the curriculum. Impetus for these programs has come from a number of sources: Congress, the courts, state legislatures, departments of education, and various professional and advocacy groups. At first, these programs were not based on research, but 1 Throughout this report, the committee has elected wherever possible to use the term "English-language learners" (proposed by Rivera ) rather than the term "LEP students." The committee feels that the former is a positive term, whereas the latter assigns a negative label. Moreover, we have chosen to forego the editorially convenient practice of reducing English-language learners to an acronym.
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relied on professional intuitions, political voices, and a moral conviction that something had to be done to reverse the pattern of poor academic outcomes for these students. What little research existed focused on middle- and upper-middle-class Cuban exiles, populations of a different cultural background and generally of higher socioeconomic status than today's typical English-language learner. Beginning in the early 1970s and continuing to the present, a research base bearing on English-language learners has been built in response to a number of circumstances. Major developments in basic research, especially in the areas of language and cognitive development, followed on the heels of the cognitive revolution of the 1960s and stimulated such research on English-language learners. The political controversy over bilingual education (i.e., use of a native language other than English in instruction) led to a line of research aimed at evaluating the comparative effectiveness of bilingual education and other approaches using only English. Simultaneously, general concern with educational effectiveness stimulated research aimed at identifying characteristics of "effective" schools, and this in turn stimulated parallel work to identify characteristics of effective programs for English-language learners. These and other developments have resulted in a rich portfolio of research that is relevant to the education of English-language learners, ranging from basic processes to program evaluation and program characteristics research. Almost 30 years after congressional passage of the Bilingual Education Act as Title VII of the Stafford-Hawkins Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we are now in a position to take stock of what we know. PURPOSE AND SCOPE OF THE REPORT The purpose of this report is to review and summarize the current state of knowledge that has been or could be applied to the education of students who are not fully English proficient. We have endeavored to move beyond the narrow focus on language of instruction that has dominated education and policy discussions to examine individual, social, and instructional factors that bear on student learning. In its full report, the committee reviews research in a broad range of substantive areas. This summary version focuses on a subset of these areas: bilingualism and second-language learning, literacy development and content learning, the social context of school learning, student assessment, program evaluation, and school and classroom effectiveness. We note that children develop and learn in families, in neighborhoods, and in societies, as well as in classrooms and schools. There is ample evidence
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that each of these contexts influences child development and academic achievement. For English-language learners, the important contextual issues include poverty, which is common among these students; attendance in underfunded schools; low social status accorded to members of certain ethnic and immigrant groups; familial stress; low teacher expectations; and the child's need to adjust to novel school practices of language use, behavioral appropriateness, and ways of learning. In the interest of brevity, these larger contextual issues are not directly or fully addressed in this report, but form the foundation for the issues that are examined. Classrooms and schools, too, exist within complex environments, such as local and state systems; they are also influenced by federal policy, the media, and public opinion. A description of these contexts and factors and analysis of their impact on the education of English-language learners deserves serious attention by researchers. However, this committee saw these areas as lying mostly beyond its charge. A final contextual parameter for this report is a set of assumptions shared by the members of the committee. They are as follows: (1) all children in the United States should be able to function fully in the English language; (2) English-language learners should be held to the same expectations and have the same opportunities for achievement in academic content areas as other students; and (3) in an increasingly global economic and political world, proficiency in languages other than English and an understanding of different cultures are valuable in their own right, and should be among the major goals for schools. TERMINOLOGY There are many labels for the students who come from language backgrounds other than English and whose English proficiency is not yet developed to the point where they can profit fully from English-only instruction. We have elected to use the term proposed by Rivera (1994)—English-language learners. We use the term "LEP" when quoting another source, when citing such things as legal requirements, and when referring to issues rather than to children. Two other terms appear frequently in this report: Bilingual students—We use the term bilingual to refer to an individual with a language background other than English who has developed proficiency in his or her primary language and enough proficiency in English not to be disadvantaged in an English-only school environment. Language-minority students—This term refers to individuals from
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homes where a language other than English is actively used, who therefore have had an opportunity to develop some level of proficiency in a language other than English. A language-minority student may be of limited English proficiency, bilingual, or primarily monolingual in English. BACKGROUND This section provides background information on the student population of English-language learners, the types of programs designed to meet their needs, the teachers of these students, and the means used to measure educational outcomes for this population. Students According to a nationally representative sample of school districts, the number of English-language learners in grades K-12 in the fall of 1991 was 2,314,079 (Fleischman and Hopstock, 1993, hereafter referred to as the Descriptive Study). This number represents an increase of almost 1 million students over the results of a survey conducted in 1984 using similar methodology.2 Other estimates of the English-language learner population have ranged from 2.0 to 3.3 million because of the varying estimation methods used (Hopstock and Bucaro, 1993). By far the largest proportion of English-language learners are native speakers of Spanish (73 percent). This is followed by Vietnamese (3.9 percent); Hmong (1.8 percent); Cantonese (1.7 percent); Cambodian (1.6 percent); Korean (1.6 percent); Laotian (1.3 percent); Navajo (1.3 percent); Tagalog (1.3 percent); and Russian, French Creole, Arabic, Portuguese, Japanese, Armenian, Chinese (unspecified), Mandarin, Farsi, Hindi, and Polish (Fleischman and Hopstock, 1993). Geographically speaking, English-language learners are concentrated in a small number of large states. Of all the language-minority individuals enumerated in the 1990 census, 67 percent resided in just five states: California (30 percent), Texas (15 percent), New York (11 percent), Florida (6 percent), and Illinois (5 percent). Relatively high proportions of English-language learners are found in a small number of districts; in 1991, for example, 6 percent of districts served a student population that was at least 40 percent English-language learners (Descriptive Study). 2 Some of this increase is probably due to improvements in methods for identification and reporting of English-language learners.
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Recently, however, as the number of immigrants has increased, some have moved to smaller cities and suburban and rural areas, as well as to regions that have had few language minorities in the past, such as the midwest. This trend has been stimulated by a desire for employment and a lower cost of living (Education Week, September 11, 1996). Most English-language learners are in the early elementary grades. Over half (53 percent) can be found in grades K-4. They make up a decreasing proportion of the total population in these grades: 8 percent of all kindergarteners, down to about 6 percent of fourth graders. As suggested earlier, English-language learners are also overwhelmingly from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds. For example, 77 percent of English-language learners were eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, compared with 38 percent overall in the same schools. According to another study, known as Prospects (a Congressionally mandated evaluation of Chapter 1/Title I that follows longitudinally a nationally representative sample of students [Moss and Puma, 1995]), a large percentage of English-language learners attend schools where a high proportion (75-100 percent) of the other students are in poverty—43 percent of first grade and 51 percent of third grade English-language learners attend such schools, compared with about 13 percent of the overall population. There are important differences between Hispanic and non-Hispanic language-minority groups. An analysis of the Current Population Survey from 1989 shows substantial family income differences within the non-English-language groups (McArthur, 1993). For example, 35 percent of families that spoke Asian/Pacific Island languages had incomes under $20,000, compared with 57 percent for Spanish speakers. There were parallel differences in parental educational attainment. Program Definitions The major dimensions used to define educational programs for English-language learners relate to native-language use, the mix of the students' linguistic backgrounds, and the goals of the program. However, most surveys of actual program characteristics show wide variation even within given nomenclatures. In addition, approaches do not exist in isolation, coexist even within schools, and are often combined in various ways, depending on the availability of staff and resources. With these constraints in mind, we offer the following generic program labels and definitions. Note that the first two definitions refer to instructional approaches for teaching English based on English as a second language
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(ESL), while the last four are program models that are designed to meet the needs of English-language learners more broadly, and may include those ESL approaches: ESL—Students receive specified periods of instruction aimed at the development of English-language skills, with a primary focus on grammar, vocabulary, and communication rather than academic content. Content-based ESL—Students receive specified periods of ESL instruction that is structured around academic content rather than generic English-language skills. Sheltered instruction—Students receive subject matter instruction in English, modified so that it is understandable to them at their levels of English proficiency. Structured immersion—All students in the program are English-language learners, usually, though not always, from different language backgrounds. They receive instruction in English, with an attempt made to adjust the level of English so subject matter is comprehensible. Typically there is no native-language support. Transitional bilingual education—Most students in the program are English-language learners. They receive some degree of instruction in the native language; however, the goal of the program is to transition to English as quickly as possible, so that even within the program, there is a shift toward using primarily English. Maintenance bilingual education—Most students in the program are English-language learners and from the same language background. They receive significant amounts of their instruction in their native language. Unlike transitional programs, however, these programs continue native language instruction even as students' English proficiency increases because their aim is to develop academic proficiency in both English and the native language. Two-way bilingual programs—A portion of the students (ideally half) in these programs are native speakers of English, and the others are English-language learners from the same language group. The goal of the program is to develop proficiency in both languages for both groups of students. Data on program types are difficult to collect and interpret because program philosophy and objectives do not always translate into program practice. However, it is safe to say that ESL-only (with some variants of content-based ESL and sheltered instruction) and transitional bilingual education are the two prevalent models for educating English-language
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learners. A recent study found over 1600 schools that reported offering content-based ESL and/or sheltered instruction (Sheppard, 1995). Structured immersion programs are very few in number, as evidenced by the fact that a recent study examining the effects of structured immersion (Ramirez et al., 1991) had to select all programs found. Maintenance programs are also relatively rare, and although two-way bilingual programs are becoming increasingly popular, a recent survey identified just 182 schools nationwide where this method is used (Christian and Whitcher, 1995). The Descriptive Study examined factors that predicted which services involving native-language use were provided by schools. The strongest predictors were the availability of teachers who spoke the native (non-English) language and the percentage of English-language learners whose native language was Spanish. School poverty level was positively related to the likelihood of English-language learners' receiving instruction in their native language. Among the first grade cohort in the Prospects study, 70 percent of those in high-poverty schools received some math instruction in their native language, compared with 17 percent for those in medium- and low-poverty schools. The Teachers The Descriptive Study found that approximately 15 percent of all public school teachers in the country had at least one English-language learner in their class. About 66 percent of teachers serving English-language learners were mainstream classroom teachers serving some of these students; about 18 percent were mainstream classroom teachers serving these students primarily. The study also found (p. 39) that most "teachers of English-language learners hold regular elementary and secondary teaching certification; only small percentages are certified in bilingual education (10 percent) or ESL (8 percent)." About 42 percent of teachers of English-language learners spoke a non-English language that was the native language of one or more of those students. The study also found that only 55 percent of the teachers of English-language learners had taken relevant college courses or had received recent inservice professional development relating to the instruction of these students. Educational Outcomes Data on educational outcomes are particularly difficult to obtain for the English-language learner population because their limited English
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proficiency hampers valid use of achievement measures administered in English.3 Many English-language learners were eliminated from national data sets such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and the National Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS) because they were thought to be insufficiently proficient in English to complete the questionnaires or take the tests. Thus, any estimate based on the sample of English-language learners who took the tests would likely be biased toward those most proficient in English. The Prospects study provides some measure of achievement in the early grades. Results of the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS) showed English-language learners performing considerably below general population norms in both reading and math when tested in English. For example, the third grade cohort achieved at a mean percentile level of 24.8 percent in reading and 35.2 percent in math, compared with 56.4 and 56.8 percent, respectively, for all public school students. For those students who took the SABE, a similar test administered in Spanish, the mean percentile was somewhat but not much better, at 41.1 percent for reading and 35.2 percent for math. For both measures, performance was strongly related to the concentration of students from poor families in the school. The higher the concentration of poor families, the worse the student performance, whereas the performance of English-language learners in schools with school poverty concentrations of 20-34 percent was not substantially different from the general population norm for all public school students. However, although there is an effect of poverty, limited English proficiency also plays a role in low performance, as indicated by substantially lower scores for English-language learners as compared with language-minority students (not currently limited-English-proficient) in high-poverty schools. Prospects also examined student grades and teacher ratings of student ability and social and affective characteristics. English-language learners were less likely than other students to receive grades of "excellent" in reading or math. Moreover, teachers rated such students lower than other students in their overall ability to perform in school and their overall achievement in school. However, teachers did not judge English-language learners to be different on a number of affective characteristics, such as honesty, friendliness, happiness, self-esteem, ability to get along with teachers, and respect for authority. There were also no differences 3 Recently, the National Center for Educational Statistics has made efforts to incorporate more of these students in its assessments (see Chapters 5 and 9 of the full report).
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from the overall student population in school attendance, tardiness, and school suspensions. Finally, drop-out rates for language-minority students provide one important indicator of educational outcomes for English-language learners. Data from the 1989 Current Population Survey show that 31.3 percent of native Spanish speakers aged 16 to 24 were not enrolled in and had not completed high school, compared with 10.5 percent of English-only speakers. Figures for the other language groups were comparable to those for the English-only speakers. The difference between the Spanish-speaking and other language-minority groups is largely eliminated when one controls statistically for parental educational attainment (McArthur, 1993:Table 16). To summarize, available data on student outcomes indicate distressing results for English-language learners—both in the short-term outcomes of test scores and teacher judgments and in longer-term outcomes such as high school completion rates. Furthermore, other confounding factors—poverty level and level of parental educational attainment—are strongly related to lower achievement. ORGANIZATION OF THE REPORT The remainder of this report is organized partly around the traditional distinction between basic and applied research, but also is structured to reflect specific areas of concern for educational practitioners and policymakers. The three chapters to follow (Chapters 2-4) summarize research findings on bilingualism, second-language acquisition, literacy, content area learning, the social context of school learning, and intergroup relations. The next three chapters summarize the findings of more applied research: student assessment (Chapter 5), program evaluation (Chapter 6), and school and classroom effectiveness (Chapter 7). These topics were selected because they represent key areas of concern in the current dialogue on educational reform. Each chapter begins with a summary of key findings and ends with a section on educational and research implications. It should be noted that the research questions posed in the latter sections are intended to be addressed by practicing educators and policymakers, in addition to researchers. Differing research traditions (cognitive aspects of school learning, program evaluation, and research on school and classroom effectiveness) are treated separately in individual chapters so the reader can get a sense of how the evidence from each tradition or data source is analyzed and how inferences are drawn. However, it should be noted that there is some overlap among the kinds of studies cited in individual chapters.
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BILINGUALISM AND SECOND-LANGUAGE LEARNING: KEY FINDINGS A review of the literature on bilingualism and second-language learning reveals the following key findings: Bilingualism is pervasive throughout the world; there is nothing unusual about it. It varies according to the conditions under which people become bilingual, the uses they have for their various languages, and the social status of the languages. For example, some children learn two languages from the onset of language acquisition, while others begin to acquire a second language when they arrive in school. Bilingualism shows no negative effects on the overall linguistic, cognitive, or social development of children, and may even provide general advantages in these areas of mental functioning. Second-language acquisition is a complex process because language is so central to human functioning. For example, second-language learning can be viewed as a linguistic and cognitive accomplishment, but social variables also affect language use and structure. An important dimension of second-language acquisition is the age and concomitant cognitive skills of the second-language learner. Because of their more advanced cognitive skills, older children acquire a second language at a more rapid rate than younger children. Second-language abilities should be assessed in relation to the uses of language the learner will require, rather than in isolation as an abstract competence. Individual and group factors such as age of learning, intelligence, attitudes, and personality have been examined in hopes of explaining individual differences in language learning. Age of learning and intelligence are related to certain aspects of second-language acquisition, but attitudes and personality are not promising explanations. Many bilinguals in the United States show a strong preference for English in most conversational situations, and this shift in preference from the native language to English results in a monolingual English upbringing for their children. Evidence from preschool programs reviewed in this chapter suggests that use of the child's native language does not impede the acquisition of English.
Representative terms from entire chapter: