Promoting Academic Achievement among English Learners: A Guide to the Research


Claude Goldenberg & Rhoda Coleman

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  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Dedication

    To our parents:

    Loty and Julio Goldenberg, who provided me with a world-class bilingual education (CG)


    Cyrella and Leonard Hertzberg, whose lives were examples of commitment, perseverance, and generosity (RC).


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    List of Tables and Figures

    • Table 1.1 Comparison of National Literacy Panel (NLP) and Center for Research on Education, Diversity and Excellence (CREDE) Reports 8
    • Table 1.2 Most Frequent 15 Languages Spoken by ELLs 12
    • Table 1.3 Education and Income Characteristics of Select Hispanic and Asian Populations 14
    • Table 4.1 The Continuum of Conversational to Academic Language 64
    • Table 5.1 Content-Based ELD Versus Sheltered Instruction 86
    • Figure 1.1 Percent Change in Non-ELL and ELL School Enrollment, 1989 to 2006 2
    • Figure 1.2 Instructional Language for ELLs 15


    Sincere thanks to

    • our colleagues on the National Literacy Panel and the CREDE synthesis teams, without whose painstaking work this book would not have been possible;
    • our editor at Corwin, Dan Alpert, for his outstanding help, support, encouragement, forbearance, and infinite patience;
    • Ronald Gallimore, for his helpful feedback and suggestions on the manuscript;
    • our spouses, Ellen Goldenberg and Gary Coleman, for putting up with the many intrusions on family life, including frequent late-night phone calls—loving thanks for their support, encouragement, and patience;
    • the many educators with whom we have worked and from whom we have learned so much; and
    • the external reviewers of the book manuscript, whose questions and suggestions greatly improved the final product:
      • Alberto Esquinca, Assistant Professor of Bilingual Education and ESL, University of Texas, El Paso, TX
      • Sandra Mercuri, Assistant Professor of Curriculum and Instruction, The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, Brownsville, TX
      • Diep Nguyen, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction, School District 62, Des Plaines, IL
      • Deborah Palmer, Assistant Professor of Bilingual/Bicultural Education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Texas, Austin, TX

    Needless to say, all errors of fact and interpretation are strictly our own.

    About the Authors

    Claude Goldenberg, a native of Argentina, is professor of education at Stanford University. He received his AB from Princeton University and PhD from UCLA's Graduate School of Education. Goldenberg has taught junior high school in San Antonio, Texas, and first grade in a bilingual elementary school in the Lennox School District near Los Angeles. Goldenberg was a National Academy of Education Spencer Fellow and a recipient (with Ronald Gallimore) of the Albert J. Harris Award from the International Reading Association. He was on the Committee for the Prevention of Early Reading Difficulties in Young Children (National Research Council) and the National Literacy Panel (NIH and U.S. Department of Education), which synthesized research on literacy development among language-minority children and youth. He is the author of Successful School Change: Creating Settings to Improve Teaching and Learning (Teachers College, 2004). His research focuses on improving achievement for language-minority students, particularly those from Latino backgrounds.

    Rhoda Coleman is senior research fellow and professional development specialist at the Center for Language Minority Education and Research at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB). She received her BA and EdD from the University of Southern California, has a master's in reading and a reading specialist credential from Loyola Marymount University, and holds a master's in administration from California State University, Los Angeles. Coleman taught elementary school in Grades 1 through 6 for 29 years in the Lennox School District near Los Angeles, where she taught English learners transitioning into English. She was then a language arts consultant for the Los Angeles County Office of Education, providing K–12 professional development to school districts throughout California and writing and producing over 25 teacher training videos. She currently teaches in the teacher credential program at CSULB. Coleman was a California Teacher of the Year, recipient of the Milken National Educator Award, and California Social Studies Teacher of the Year.

  • Glossary: Terms Associated with the Education of English Language Learners

    Academic language is the language associated with school, that is, the language needed to participate in academic instruction and discussions and to be able to read and write texts about academic topics. Academic language is often contrasted with conversational language, which tends to be less formal, abstract, and cognitively challenging. The distinction should not be overdrawn, however, since conversational language can also be abstract and cognitively challenging. See CALP and BICS.

    BICS (Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skills) is a term coined by Jim Cummins to indicate communication skills used in everyday social interactions, in contrast to the language skills and proficiency required for success in academic contexts. BICS contrasts with CALP (see CALP entry).

    Bilingual education includes a number of instructional approaches whereby students who come from non-English-speaking backgrounds receive academic instruction in their primary, or home, language. In bilingual programs, students are typically taught reading, writing, and other basic skills (e.g., math) in their home language while also receiving English language development (ELD; see below) instruction in other academic areas. There are various bilingual education models: transitional bilingual education (students receive primary-language instruction for a period of two to five years and then transition to all-English instruction); maintenance or developmental bilingual education, sometimes called “late exit” (primary-language instruction is maintained throughout elementary school or even beyond); and dual-language or two-way bilingual education, in which students from non-English and English-speaking backgrounds are in the same classes, with the goal of promoting bilingualism, biliteracy, and biculturalism for all students.

    CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency) was also coined by Cummins and indicates the type of oral and written language proficiency required for literacy and academic achievement (see academic language). CALP contrasts with BICS (see previous entry), although the distinction between academic language and conversational language is often not entirely clear-cut (see Table 4.1 in Chapter 4).

    Comprehensible input, coined by Stephen Krashen, is when a second language being learned is presented in such a way that it is made understandable, despite the person's limitations in the language. In certain instances a second language can naturally become comprehensible because the context makes the meaning relatively clear. However, strategies have been developed to help ELLs understand English used during academic instruction, in which the language demands can be considerable. Techniques include context or visual cues, clarification, building background knowledge, and drawing on students' experiences. Comprehensible input is part of sheltered instruction (see below).

    Culturally compatible (or culturally accommodated) instruction refers to instruction that is intentionally designed to fit, or be compatible with, interactional patterns or learning styles of students from a particular cultural group. For example, if students from a particular group are not used to being expected to answer questions individually in front of a group, culturally compatible instruction would minimize or eliminate situations in which students are called up individually to answer questions in front of the class.

    ELD (English language development) is instruction designed to promote English language proficiency; formerly known as ESL (English as a second language) instruction.

    ELL (English language learner) refers to a student from a home where a language other than English is spoken and whose English proficiency is not sufficient to permit the student to be successful in mainstream all-English instruction. Another term used is “limited English proficient,” or LEP, but it has fallen into disfavor because of the negative connotations associated with limited. “Language minority” is sometimes used to refer to these students, and the term “dual-language learner” is gaining favor.

    English immersion refers to instruction that is all (or essentially all) in English. English immersion for ELLs typically uses sheltered instruction to provide comprehensible input for content instruction and ELD instruction. English immersion is, in principle, very different from English submersion (or “sink or swim”), in which students are provided no or little support and are basically on their own to learn academic content during classroom instruction. In the 1974 decision Lau v. Nichols, the Supreme Court effectively determined that “sink or swim” violates student rights under the 1964 Civil Rights Act and is therefore illegal.

    Primary language is a student's home language, typically the first (“primary”) language a student has been exposed to and learned to understand and speak. The primary language is sometimes referred to as L1, in contrast to a second language, which is referred to as L2.

    Primary-language instruction refers to providing academic instruction in a student's primary language. Bilingual education in the United States comprises primary-language instruction and instruction in English.

    Primary-language support occurs when students are in essentially all-English instruction, but the teacher uses students' primary language to assist learning content in English. Primary-language support can include a number of different strategies and techniques, for example, using words that are cognates in English and the student's primary language (e.g., democracy and democracia), previewing a lesson in the primary language followed by teaching the lesson in English, and teaching comprehension or learning strategies in the primary language followed by students applying them in English.

    Sheltered instruction comprises a set of strategies and techniques used to help ELLs learn academic content that is taught in English, despite students' being less than fully English proficient. These strategies can include the use of graphic organizers, redundant visual cues, explicit classroom organizational strategies, language and content objectives, and primary-language support. The goal of sheltered instruction is to make grade-level content (that is, not simple or watered-down content) comprehensible to ELLs. An important, but secondary goal is to help promote English language proficiency as students learn academic content. In California, sheltered instruction is known as SDAIE, or Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English.

    Sociocultural influences refer to the wide range of (nonbiological) factors that determine the social contexts in which children and youth live and go to school. These contexts are defined, or influenced, by such things as a sociocultural group's beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and practices, which are often related to social and political circumstances, material (or economic) resources, and ethnic, cultural, or national origin and identity. Any of these factors, and in virtually any combination, can constitute sociocultural influences and define a particular sociocultural group.

    Transfer is a concept from cognitive and educational psychology referring to the process whereby what you learn in one context or setting influences what you know, are able to do, or the ease with which you can learn in another context or setting. There is positive transfer, for example, in the fact that learning to read in your primary language helps you learn to read in a second language, since so many skills transfer across languages. But there is also negative transfer: Although Spanish and English use essentially the same alphabet and many of the sounds represented by letters are identical or similar (thereby promoting positive transfer), some letters represent different sounds in the two languages or have no corresponding sounds in one or the other language (e.g., vowels have only one sound each in Spanish but can represent different sounds in English, depending on the word).

    The Corwin logo—a raven striding across an open book—represents the union of courage and learning. Corwin is committed to improving education for all learners by publishing books and other professional development resources for those serving the field of PreK-12 education. By providing practical, hands-on materials, Corwin continues to carry out the promise of its motto: “Helping Educators Do Their Work Better.”

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