The common practice in school districts across the United States is to pull students out of mainstream classes such as math, science, and social studies to focus on learning the English language instead. Rather than remain with their peers, English Language Learners spend time in the small groups with the same instructor trying to improve their social and academic language skills. Unfortunately, this approach can backfire when English Language Learners fall further behind their peers due to having been pulled from class.
A More Inclusive Approach
At the Cherry Creek School District in Colorado, students who are in the process of learning English are no longer singled out for specialized instruction. The district has hired English Language Acquisition Specialists who travel from one classroom to the next teaching a variety of different subjects. These specialists work with classroom teachers to create lesson plans that will engage both native English speakers and those learning the language in a positive way.
Early Feedback on Keeping ELL Students in Mainstream Classrooms
While the program is still new, early reports indicate that it is a success. English Language Learners no longer feel isolated from their peers, which in turn helps them foster friendships and keep up with the material taught in class. Parents, who are also happier with the new approach, are keeping their children enrolled in the district because of it. School districts looking to close the gap in performance between native and non-native English speakers would be wise to follow Cherry Hill’s example.