Standards Impacting English Language Learners

This paper explains the standards that have impacts on the learners of English language and the impacts of the standards at the district, state and national levels in the society. The learners of English language are students who have limited proficiency in English language and often have difficulties interpreting the content learnt in school due to poor languages. They therefore have to acquire added language as well as culture, which can, at times be challenging if not handled in the right manner. The populace comprising of ELL students is not only linguistically and ethnically varied, it also has diverse socioeconomic perspectives (Paradis & Crago, 2011). This is an important issue that might affect the performances of a student because of the fact that the socioeconomic status of a family and the level of education will have a direct influence on the academic performances and achievements of the learner. Another fact is that ELLs from less privileged families have higher possibilities of performing poorly compared to their peers from wealthy families. United States of American has a high number of ELLs because of its diverse population. That is why standards have to be put in place to ensure that ELLs are helped so that they can achieve their desired dreams and aspirations like any other student in the state.

Standards in school curriculums provide implements for defining the language and the contents that are to be passed to English language learners. All students and more so English language learners are mandated to use curriculums based on standards, and that emphasize on both academic and cognitive growth on the students. The students must acquire English language proficiency for good participation in all sectors during the learning process (NCELA, 2011). Language proficiency is essential in schools to boost two essential areas in the school curriculum; the first one is the common and intercultural capability of utilizing English in the lecture hall including the attainment of an academic language for one to be able to understand the content in different areas of other field like arts, mathematics, science and social studies. Teachers are expected integrate both English language proficiency standards and professional teaching standards when imparting knowledge to students.

English language proficiency standards

The first standards of English language were established by the World Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA) in 1997, published by the TESOL International Association, with the main aim of promoting operative education for the constantly increasing population that learns English language from within the United States (NICHCY, 2012). Through the implementation of No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), the Federal government found it necessary to have standards that can enable learners of English language to improve their proficiency levels in English (NICHCY, 2012). This gave rise to the requirement of all states in regard to developing proficiency standards of English language in schools. They serve as the benchmark for identifying the languages that all English language learners have to learn for effective access and negotiation of contents in and outside the classroom. It acts as the link to the content area standards, which all students should be expected to achieve. Standards in academics mandate the achievements of high levels of content by the students, but they fail to offer sufficient approaches for aiding learners of English language due to the assumption of students’ proficiency or aptitude in English and the capacity to utilize it in engaging with content. The standard should therefore be used in conjunction with other content area standards as a means of providing guidance to teachers who are aiding the English learning population to improve their levels of proficiency.

Professional Teaching Standards

In the early 1990s and 2000s, English was seen as a second language in almost all the states, and teachers were prepared to teach it as a second language. At this time also, the population of English learning students was increasing in public institutions. In order to simplify the field, especially for the tutors who were supposed to guide the learners, TESOL International Association had to join the National Council for the Accreditation of teachers Education (NCATE) (Chu, 2011). The role of the association was to develop values for the national acknowledgment of P-12 ESL education programs for teachers, which were, for the first time, implemented in the year 2001 (Chu, 2011). The standards entails what a pre-service teacher has to know and have the adequate knowledge to be able to effectively teach English language, and eventually enable one to earn licensure in the field. It is documented that more than 200 higher education institutions have adopted the use of TESOL P-12 Professional Teaching Standards as structures assigned to ESL programs to gain recognition by the national NCATE. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) had established standards for certified tutors or instructors of English as new language way back in 1990s and were amended in 2010 (Fenner & Kuhlman, 2012).

The revision of the standards reflects on the changes in educational setting for English language learners and their respective teachers. They also emphasize on matters concerning responsibility expectations and assessments for the ELLs, academic language education , expansion on the roles of the teachers, improvements on technologies used and their appropriate application to education, the purpose of culture and languages in learning, and finally the purpose that advocacy plays in  educating English language learners (Fenner & Kuhlman, 2012). Both TESO International Association and NBPTS are the recognized professional standards for English tutors, and they focus on qualifications of teachers and represent the quality teachings of English language learners. The standards also have teacher review process that is based on performance, and documentation of the impacts on student’s learning.

Common Core Standards

These are standards established by the states with the main aim of creating more clarity about what is expected from a student’s learning process in the states. Each state has different core standards.  The development of Common Core State Standards has had a remarkable impact on the teachings of English as a second language (Roseberry & Brice, 2013). When the standards were first introduced, there were many uncertainties concerning how they were going to be implemented and evaluated for English language learners. Research needs to be done concerning the integration of common core standards in ELLs.

However, many activities are already underway that address the question of CCS and English language learners. An example is that of WIDA, which is in its final stage in trying to update its standards, the reviewed standards will be called English language development (ELD) standards and will have alignments with CCS (Marinova & Uchikoshi, 2011). The other activity is that TESOL International Association is also updating its standards to incorporate CCSS. Finally, non WIDA states are also planning to revise their standards so as to form alignments with CCSS, and provide specialized professional development for teachers with regard to the impacts that common core standards have on learners of English language.

How Common Core Codes affect English language learners

These codes were created with the aim of helping students compete against other students globally. It ensures that students are prepared to either join colleges or start their careers while emphasizing that all students are included in the programs, including ELLs. The common codes affirm that ELLs are to be subjected to the same standards as the native English speakers.

 How the standards work together

It is mandatory that all teachers have sufficient knowledge on the best practices and professional developments that can enable effective passing of knowledge to the English language learners. However, it also important to note that the achievement of professional development alone is not enough and it has to be incorporated with other factors to ensure that the learning process is not compromised. The same applies to English language proficiency standards and academic content standards; they cannot work independently in improving the learning process of English language learners. They all have to be incorporated together in the learning program (Utley & Bakken, 2011). Tagging to that, the ESL teachers in the institution have to work together with the content teachers in order to create maximum positive impacts to the English language learners. It is therefore important to have professional teaching standards that ensure that teachers pass the right content to the students and in ways that can be monitored, analyzed and documented, so as to gauge the performances of the educators while at the same determining the impacts to the learners.

Teacher educators need to understand the methodical roles both ESL and content area teachers in teaching English language learners, so as to be able to provide effective and appropriate professional developments to the teachers.  The three components in the framework, that is standards, teachers and assessments, have to interact during the learning process in any given institution, and component influences the progress of the other as fragments of an inseparable arrangement (NCELA, 2011). A well-organized system triangulates these three components and ensures that they are all developed in a n equal manner, promoting the aspect of learners being able to learn content and language at the same time. If one component is neglected, the other two will also fail, meaning that the learners will end up achieving nothing in the long run. The overall academic achievements for English language learners will therefore be gauged on the systems used by the teachers in imparting the knowledge. It essential that the educators use all the components together, and with the adherence of the provided standards, so as to make sure that the students are able to achieve both the right content and English proficiency.

The Role of English Teachers in Educating English Language Learners

ESL teachers have valuable expertise and play important roles in the implementation of common cores. Through their guidance, they are able to support other students and fellow teachers in passing information and knowledge. Organization for collaboration, which can take different forms like having discussions about a lesson, chatting in hallways or sharing articles. The other role is that of leading professional developments for colleagues at places of work, teachers play a major role in encouraging other workers in the institution to further their studies; they can also offer training services especially to the lower level employees in the school. Another important role played by teachers is that of advocacy and leadership. The teachers for ELLs are good advocators for their students (Paradis & Crago, 2011). The teachers on the other will gain better understandings of the role and offer the best ideas to the students concerning advocacy and good leaderships.

Ensuring that the education systems meets the needs of English language learners

The education systems can be designed in many ways, which ensures that the needs of the learners are met and that they are able to achieve their desired goals.  First, the educators should ensure that they provide additional time to the students, with the suitable instructional support and associated assessments. All the teachers and other personnel in the institution should also be competent and qualified to offer support to the ELLs. They should also provide course work to the students that can prepare them for all levels of life including higher education levels and places of work (Chu, 2011). The teachers should encourage the use of instructions that aim in developing foundational skills in English, enabling students to participate in all grade level assignments. The use of designed opportunities for classroom interactions which promote the development of communicative strengths in language use by the students should be encouraged by the school administrators.

The other method is through the interaction of the students with English speakers who have enough language experience so as to support the students and provide relevant models of the language use. Other important factors include amendment of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), revision being made to the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) standards, regulations from the state that govern the quality of education , provision of certification examinations from the state and finally professional developments that are linked to teacher evaluations.

Impacts of the standards

The use of the standards that impact English language learners will create positive impacts as well at various levels where the standards are applied, starting from the district, state and even to the national levels.

Professional development

In institutions with high number of English language learners, it will be paramount for all the teachers to learn how to teach ELLs, since they will have to ensure that they are delivering both the content and language skills to the learners. This will necessitate the need of the teachers to advance their level of education so as to be able to teach the ELLs effectively, an aspect that eventually leads to professional development. The teaching methods used in teaching English language learners can be effective with any other student having difficulties with learning, and not necessarily struggling with languages alone (Paradis & Crago, 2011). Therefore, professional development by the teachers will benefit every other student in the school, not the ELLs only. The need to invest in professional development will also lead to the need of more resources that can be used in financing the training processes. Without proper planning and management, this can lead to financial strains, an aspect that can negate the whole process.

Creation of lifelong learners

The use of the standards in learning institutions will encourage the idea of teaching with the intention of imparting knowledge and not testing students. Students are able to learn strategies for solving problems and not only the skills. With the high –order level of thinking being emphasized in the school curriculum students will be able to identify and develop their talents at an early age, and develop independence as well (Roseberry & Brice, 2013). This promotes the growth of a well-educated society, one that will be able to prevent the occurrence of problems, reducing the amount of harm or damages that would have been caused by the problems. This saves money or other resources that would have been used in the crisis, helping in maintaining the economic stability of a given nation or state.

Student and Parent relationships

The teaching methods used by English language teachers promote good relationships between the teachers and the students, and also between students. This promotes the social well-being of the students; hence they will be able to interact easily will kinds of people (Roseberry & Brice, 2013). Through the organization of meetings between the student, parent and teachers, students will be able to develop better relationships with their parents.

The society

The use of the standards to regulate teaching of English language learners promotes equality in the society. It ensures that all children get access to quality education, putting more emphasis on the special needs of the ELLs in various institutions. Quality education to all will eventually add up to a more educated society, which helps in reduces many cases of school drop outs (Chu, 2011). The related cases of unemployment like crimes are reduced, meaning that there will be a safer society.

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