As some teachers’ school years have already come to a close and others’ school years are quickly winding down, I thought it would be a good time to share a recap of this year’s top themes on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELLs blog.

I’ll present the recap as a “year-end review.” Since we know it’s good practice to model how we’d like ELLs’ final products to look when we’re teaching them, I’m taking a stab at modeling writing a claim and providing evidence to support it as called for in the CCSS. So, you’ll see:

  • Open-ended text-dependent questions
  • My claims (a brief summary on the topic)
  • Evidence to support my claims (resources from the blog and other sources for more information)

Since this blog that began in October 2012 has tackled so many topics, this will be a two-part review. Luckily, there is no final exam! The first part of my review post presents a recap of the bigger issues Lydia and I have written about, and the second post next week will be focused more on instruction. So, let’s get started!

1. How will the implementation of the CCSS affect ELLs, and why should we care?

Claim: The CCSS for English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics have been adopted in 45 states and the District of Columbia. According to Achieve the Core, the CCSS are framed around three “shifts” each in ELA/Literacy and Mathematics which will have implications for effectively teaching all students, including ELLs. ELLs constitute the fastest growing population of students enrolled in US public schools. There are nearly 6 million ELLs (or approximately 10% of all students) enrolled in schools today in the US, and that number continues to grow.

Under the CCSS, all teachers will need to be simultaneous teachers of challenging content and rich academic language. To that end, the role of the English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher will also shift with the implementation of the CCSS to that of an expert, consultant, and advocate.

However, the CCSS Application of Common Core State Standards for English Language Learners document is a 2.5 page addendum to the CCSS that briefly provides some general information and suggestions for working with ELLs under the CCSS framework. Since many questions about implementing the Common Core with ELLs are being left to states and districts to decide, it’s up to those of us working with ELLs and their teachers to figure out ways to support their success with the CCSS.


2. How can ELLs meet the new language demands of the CCSS?

Claim: In order for ELLs to meet the academic language demands found in the CCSS, states and consortia of states are in various stages of developing English language development (ELD) standards that more clearly define the academic language ELLs will need to be successful with the CCSS.

To date, World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA) and the California Department of Education have released ELD standards that teachers can use to plan instruction in order to have a better grasp on the language demands of the CCSS for ELLs. New York State has released Sample Language Progressions that consist of New Language Arts Progressions and Home Language Arts Progressions for every Common Core learning standard in every grade.

Both WIDA and the English Language Proficiency Assessment for the 21st Century (ELPA21) consortium of states have been awarded Enhanced Assessment Grants by the US Department of Education to design computer-based English language proficiency assessments that correlate to the language demands of the CCSS. Although not funded in the grant, English language proficiency standards will also be developed as part of ELPA21’s efforts.


3. What are some implications of the CCSS for unique populations of ELLs?

Claim: While educators of ELLs in general will need to take extra steps so that these students can access the CCSS, unique populations of ELLs must also be given special consideration. Some of these populations include newcomer ELLs, long-term ELLs, students with limited formal education, students with lower levels of English language proficiency, and ELLs who are dually identified for special education services.

Educators will need to be knowledgeable about these students’ unique strengths and challenges when planning CCSS-based instruction and assessment for them as well as when designing policy that takes them into consideration.


4. What are some issues around teacher education, collaboration, and advocacy when it comes to ELLs and the CCSS?

Claim: The implementation of the CCSS will mean that all teachers will need to be well versed in academic language. However, teacher licensure requirements present a “patchwork quilt” approach  to preparing all teachers to work with ELLs. A few states require some coursework on ELLs, but others don’t require any kind of training.

In addition to paying more attention to the degree to which all teachers are prepared to teach ELLs in general, we must also consider how all pre-service teachers in states that have adopted the CCSS are prepared to specifically teach ELLs the CCSS. We need to be more vocal with our state education agencies so that they are aware of this need.

Beyond preparing pre-service teachers to teach the CCSS to ELLs, educators also need to focus on providing professional development to in-service teachers around teaching the CCSS to ELLs. A look at how collaboration must be reframed to benefit ELLs goes hand in hand with this need for professional development. One way to approach collaboration and implementation of the CCSS for ELLs is through an advocacy framework. As educators working with ELLs, we must ensure that ELLs’ voices are heard during these groundbreaking times.


Ok, class – how is the review going so far? Watch out for the second part of the review next week!

Note: Photos are images from Colorín Colorado’s new Common Core classroom video, filmed in Albuquerque, NM. Stay tuned for the launch of the videos soon!

Originally posted June 13, 2013 on Colorin Colorado by Diane Staehr Fenner