by Bill Guy
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) call upon all content teachers to focus on vocabulary, oral language and discourse patterns deemed essential for academic work within their disciplines. Add the fact that a quarter of California students are English learners, and the task ahead for educators becomes even more complex.
That’s where a new resource comes in: “Raise Your Voice on Behalf of English Learners: The English Learners and Common Core Advocacy Toolkit.” Developed as a collaborative effort by Californians Together, the California Association for Bilingual Education, and the National Council of La Raza, the toolkit is designed to help educators, parents and policymakers understand the CCSS and provide the support English learners need to achieve academic success.
“Although the CCSS represent a major reform of public education, they do not explicitly state how English learners’ specific needs should be addressed,” says Nancy Hofrock, CTA’s Language Acquisition Committee chair and Fontana Teachers Association vice president. She is also the CTA liaison to Californians Together.
Practices of a narrowed curriculum and years spent in English and math interventions, support classes and instruction, coupled with little or no instruction in science, social studies and the arts, have resulted in gaps in essential academic background knowledge for many of the state’s English learners. This makes it even more critical that these students have access to background knowledge needed to comprehend and critically engage with academic texts at the level required by the CCSS in all subject areas.
“The CCSS offer a greater opportunity for equal access to education for English learners,” says Hofrock. “The toolkit meets a huge need for parents, teachers, education support professionals, and all stakeholders to help make sure that the needs of our English learners are met. It gives us the resources to be frontline advocates for them.”
The toolkit provides resources for use by educators, policymakers, parents and community members in dialogues at the local, district and state levels for raising concerns, pushing for the supports needed by English learners, and advancing the vision of English-language education that the Common Core can make possible.
The toolkit includes:
- Background paper on the opportunities and challenges that the Common Core standards present for curriculum, instruction and assessment of English learners.
- Talking points for policymakers and school site, district and county level educators to insert the needs of English learners in Common Core standards dialogues.
- Palm card with key issues to be raised in support of English learners in any Common Core conversation.
- PowerPoint presentation to address the needs of English learners when implementing Common Core standards.
- CD containing PDFs of all the documents in the kits plus additional resource articles.
Additional information and a toolkit order form can be found on the Californians Together website: www.californianstogether.org. The toolkit is available now in English. A Spanish version is planned for release in January 2014.
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