Long Term English Language Learners

Author: Anna Briggs, ESL Education Specialist

As the number of English Language Learners in the U.S. continues to increase, we are learning that the fastest growing segment of this population in our secondary schools is comprised of Long -Term ELLs. These are students who have been in U.S. schools for more than six years without reaching sufficient English proficiency to be reclassified or exited from the ESL program. Long-Term ELLs are generally identified by the time they reach 6th grade, though recent research trends indicate that factors such as low literacy rates and below grade-level academic performance can predict Long-Term ELL status as early as 4th grade.

 

Identifying Characteristics

Key indicators can help school district teachers and administrators identify these students in order to better meet their linguistic and cognitive needs:

  • Orally bilingual (proficient in social English)
  • Limited literacy skills (read below grade level)
  • Lacking cognitive academic language (decreased use of academic vocabulary)
  • “Stuck” at Intermediate level of English proficiency (Intermediate TELPAS rating in Reading and Writing for two or more years)

In addition to the academic indicators above, it is important to note that a significant number of Long- Term ELLs were actually born here in the United States. Inconsistent schooling, transitions in and out of various Bilingual/ESL program models, and students’ relocating in and out of the U.S. correlate to gaps in education.From a social perspective, these students may oftentimes be perceived as failures because of their passivity and disengaged nature with academic content. Therefore, it is crucial that we understand the social factors involved when students in grades 6-12 are linguistically lagging behind their native English-speaking peers.

 

Action Plan

With regard to the classroom, it is important that instruction for Long-Term ELLs (as well as all second language learners) be linguistically accommodated to meet the various proficiency levels of these students. Equally as important is the integration of increased opportunities for listening, speaking, reading, and writing in all content area classrooms.

Administrative support is critical to understanding and highlighting the needs of Long-Term ELLs. It is imperative to identify Long-Term ELLs as a group of students needing support. Administrators should consider a school-wide focus on study skills and literacy to bridge any fundamental gaps in learning and schooling. Additionally, administrators support a focus on the implementation of frequent data/progress monitoring discussions with both content area and ESL teachers as well as instructional leaders to address academic and linguistic needs. Finally, administrators must organize intensive Sheltered Instruction training and classroom support for any teacher of ELLs  as this is vital for fostering the language-rich environment that is needed for all students to perform successfully.

 

References

Menken, K and Kleyn, T. (2009). The Difficult Road for Long-Term English Learners. Educational Leadership, 66 (7).

Olsen, L. (2010). Reparable Harm: Fulfilling the Unkept Promise of Educational Opportunity for California’s Long Term English Learners.


Comments are closed.