Taking a Stand for English Language Learners

Last week, former Los Angeles elementary school teacher and ASCD Emerging Leader Patricia Dickenson did a guest blogger stint at Rick Hess’s Straight Up blog.

In her first post, she highlights some of the policies that set up English language learners (ELLs) for failure in U.S. schools. “Too often tests, tracking, and a diluted curriculum impose an oppressive learning environment that fails to connect with students, give a sense of purpose, and foster a love of learning,” she writes. As the ELL population grows faster than any other, there must be more widescale adoption of what successful ELL programs do: “Take into consideration school and community culture, teacher professional development, quality of teaching, intensity of instruction, and most importantly students’ needs,” Dickenson argues.

In the follow-up post, “Reform for English Language Learners,” she gets more specific about the policies and practices that will bring equitable education opportunities to ELLs. For example

  • Preschool co-ops as an economical solution to diminish inequities in school readiness.
  • Postponing standardized testing until ELLs have been in the system for three years, and investing resources instead in expanding access to books and language tutoring.
  • Finding ways to integrate native English speakers with ELLs from the onset of schooling.
  • Fostering school community by having ELLs pair off or be put into teams to teach their home language to someone not proficient in that language.
  • Creating a national council on education to examine education reform and support the whole child.

Her final post, “Driven by Competition . . . Compelled by the Heart,” shares her experiences as a teacher in South Central Los Angeles, Calif., and explores what teachers of ELLs can do to support the those students in their classrooms.

Check out Dickenson’s blog series and tell us how you advocate for the ELLs in your school!