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Why Should Curricula and Assessments be Created in the Native Language of English Language Learners (ELL)?

When you are trying to get your organization’s program into schools, it’s important to make sure that you are able to get teachers and students to use your program so that it can remain in place for many years to come.

One of the biggest hurdles to getting an education program placed and utilized can be the language barrier that exists in some school systems. That’s why it is crucial to understand how to overcome this barrier and set yourself up for success.
The numbers speak for themselves. The English-language learner (ELL) student population is very large:

  • 1 in 10—or 5 million—students are ELL.
  • They are a diverse group, speaking more than 400 different languages. Spanish is the most prevalent language with 3.7 million (77.1%) reporting it as their home language for school year 2014–15. Arabic, Chinese, and Vietnamese are the next most common home languages.
  • Most of these students came to the U.S. before kindergarten or are the children of U.S.-born immigrants.
  • Many ELL students are enrolled in transitional classes or dual classes in which they are developing literacy in two languages at the same time.

Transitional bilingual classes
This model emphasizes that students master skills first in their primary language while assisting them in becoming fluent in the second language. Proponents of this method believe that students are more capable of becoming fluent in English if they are first fluent in their native language since the skills they learn in their native language can be applied in the second language.

Dual language classes
Provides curriculum in both English and in the native language with a goal of functional bilingualism for all students. New York City, Philadelphia, North Carolina, Delaware, Utah, Oregon, and Washington state are among the places expanding dual-language classrooms.

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states to have in place English language proficiency (ELP) standards for ELLs that are aligned with their academic standards, and they must provide for an annual ELP assessment, aligned with their English language proficiency standards for all ELLs.

Students who speak the same language or have similar levels of language proficiency may need very different kinds of support to succeed in the classroom. Curricula and assessments translated from English into another language do not consider the cultural nuances students need to understand the concept. A curriculum should be created to properly illustrate how native language skills develop in conjunction with the English language. It is important that children are assessed in both languages.

When students have the appropriate literacy skills in their native language, it is easier for them to apply these skills to the acquisition of the English language. Research shows that assessments created for monolingual English speakers may not be suited for students learning English as a second language, especially if the students are receiving literacy instructions in their native language. Bilingual students should be assessed in their most proficient language.

Given that dual and transitional classes are being taught in the ELL native language, it’s important to create curricula and assessments in their target language. Providing these assessments in the native language assists in measuring an ELL student’s true progress and proficiency and ensures that your program will have a much higher success rate.

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