The Increase in English language Learners

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The United States has seen a dramatic increase in its non-native English speaking public education classrooms, especially from students born in Latin American countries. This population trend has been the encouragement for bilingual education reform throughout the decades. Bilingual education has been a long heated debate, especially in the political arena, that has focused on whether English language learners (ELL) should be taught primarily in English only, their home languages, or a combination of both. The increase in English language learners has resulted in a primary goal of being able to provide successful instructional approaches for these students. The challenge then becomes how to properly assess these students based upon that instruction. It is important to note that along with academic or content area assessments, English language learners must also be assessed in English language proficiency. Cummins (1991) believes that it is through the development of a child’s first language that proficiency in the second language can be achieved. In fact, he reinforced the idea that the native language serves as a valuable resource in the desire to learn English – the perfect formula for dual language education.

The dominant first language spoken among the second language students of Galena Park Independent School District is Spanish, with students at the elementary level being taught in dual language classrooms. Several years ago, the initial focus of the district was to increase the literacy skills of English language learners, however as the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) scores decreased in the academic areas of science and mathematics, then focus shifted towards improvements in the academic areas of science...

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One of the first things new teacher candidates are told is to always pretend there is a best world scenario when taking certification assessments. However, once teachers actually begin teaching, they soon learn that there is no ideal scenario in the world of education. In fact, the perfect model for testing and measurement of bilingual or second language students cannot even be attained without first taking into consideration federal laws, state requirements, region or district expectations, educator and community perspectives, and even the students’ home languages. If there was one bit of perfection to be sought in the quest for a perfect assessment tool for English language learners, it would be to not fail schools whose English language learners cannot pass an assessment that has been written in a language that they do not quite fully understand.
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