Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Programs Signal Progress for English Language Learners

Just in time for the new year, there’s some encouraging news on the bilingual front.

First, there’s this piece from the Naples Daily News about a promising English Language Learner program in Florida’s Collier County Public School system.  The Sheltered Model pilot program, developed by the National Center for Research on Education, started in 2008 with 14 elementary schools and now includes 24 classrooms in 16 elementary schools.

Under the program, specially trained teachers work with beginning level English-speakers “by deliberately focusing on language skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing.” The curriculum and material are the same as those used in the other grade-level classes.

Early data show that students in the sheltered program perform better than peers who are not in a sheltered program, according to the article. District data show that students in the program increased English proficiency by 34 percent and scored higher on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test compared to ELL’s  not in the program.

The program and training were originally paid for through a $1 million federal grant

Like other school districts around the country, Collier County has a sizable population of non-English speakers. About 6,000 students are in the ELL program, and English is not the first language for about 13 percent of the district’s students. Almost half of the student population lives in homes where English is not the first language.

It would be interesting to investigate this approach further. Is it going on in other districts? If so, are they having the same success? And are there plans to expand it further?

The other intriguing bit of news comes from California, where the state announced plans to issue a “seal of biliteracy” to high school graduates who demonstrate fluency in English and another language, including American Sign Language.

According to Education Week, about 60 California school districts already issue such a seal. The National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition has hailed the program.

Does this portend a trend in other states or a new appreciation of bilingualism? It could be worth monitoring.