Policies and practices with respect to educating English learners (ELs) in the United States have historically been driven largely by beliefs and attitudes about how best to ensure that they acquire high levels of functional proficiency in English as quickly as possible (Espinosa, 2013).
These beliefs and attitudes have reflected a combination of what might be regarded as common sense and scientific theories about what is best for ELs with respect to learning English. Torrance (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Literacy (pp.
The conclusion that EL status alone is not sufficient to explain the academic challenges of ELs in the United States also is supported by evi- dence that the academic performance of ELs or heritage language speakers can vary from country to country.
Specifically, research has shown that immigrant ELs in Canada and Australia on average perform as well as or better than native-born students on standardized tests of academic achievement (Aydemir et al., 2008; Cobb-Clark and Trong-Ha Nguyen, 2010, respectively).
Proposition 227 in California (overturned by voters in November 2016), for example, allowed ELs 1 year in classes where they received specialized support in learning English before being integrated into regular classrooms with native speakers of English. How well are California’s English learners mastering English?
(More details about these policies and their implications are provided in Chapters 2 and 9.) Empirical evidence concerning the typical time required to achieve levels of proficiency in English that would permit ELs to benefit from all-English instruction also is necessary to establish reasonable expectations about how long ELs require additional support in learning English for academic purposes.
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