Addressing the Needs of the Long-Term English Learner

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On May 12, Jana Echevarria, Professor Emerita at California State University, Long Beach, will lead a McGraw-Hill Education Webinar titled “Understanding and Addressing the Needs of Long-Term English Learners: Five Remedies.” The session will identify the profound challenges English language learners face as well as some of the ways educators can help these students progress academically. In this post, Dr. Echevarria, a national expert in the subject, previews the discussion.

Most American educators won’t be surprised that the number of English learners in our schools is growing. What may surprise them is the growing number of students who remain English learners year after year.

Long-term English learners, or LTELs, are typically students who have been designated English learners for five or more years without adequate progress toward proficiency. The effect is a cumulative one in which more and more students languish as they move through the grade levels. In many cases, such students will acquire enough English to communicate and get by outside of school but not the vocabulary and comprehension skills needed to grasp rigorous academic content. Consequently, these students will not be college or career ready and may drop out of school altogether.

There is no one remedy to this issue, as LTELs are often faced with socio-economic challenges outside of school that make it difficult to learn. However, there are a number of things we could be doing in our schools to make sure that English learners are able to meet today’s academic standards and progress along with their native English-speaking peers.

For example, teachers should focus on ensuring that students make daily incremental growth so that over time they make significant strides. This is done by providing supports to make content comprehensible to English learners. Also, classroom instruction needs to include multiple opportunities for English learners to use language productively with partners and in small groups. Specific language objectives guide these language practice opportunities as students work to gain academic and linguistic proficiency.

Finally, research consistently shows that a teacher’s expectations can make an enormous difference in a learner’s progress. English learners need to believe – and the teacher needs to believe – that they can succeed. While confidence is something that must be instilled in all students, it’s especially important for English learners, who are facing additional challenges.

To register for this seminar, go to: www.mheonline.com/literacywebinar

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