Viewed by: 6646 people Comments (10) Category: Carole Cobb Tags: achievement gap, culturally and lingiustically diverse, culturally responsive, English language learners, equity, professional learning
Dr. Cobb is the Administrative Coordinator for Los Angeles Unified School District’s Office of Academic English Mastery/Standard English Learner Programs. Its mission is two-fold: to eliminate educational disparities for African American, Mexican American, Native American, and Hawaiian American students; and to train teachers, administrators, and support staff in cultural responsiveness to ensure equitable access to quality education for historically under-served students. For twenty years Dr. Cobb has been an independent training consultant, providing training in culturally relevant and responsive education; change management; leadership development; strategic planning; and coalition building.
Who are Standard English Language Learners?
Standard English Learners (SELs) are students for whom Standard English is not native, whose home languages differ in structure and form from the language of school [i.e. standard American or academic English]. These students are generally classified as “English Only” African American, Hawaiian American, Mexican American, and Native American because their home language incorporates English vocabulary while embodying phonology, grammar, and sentence structure rules transitioned from indigenous/native languages other than English including African languages, Native American languages, Hawaiian languages and Latin American Spanish.
How are SELs identified?
A large percentage of students in inner-city urban school districts are SELs and perform in the low and far below basic range on standardized achievement tests. The research suggests 75-80 percent of African American students who attend urban public schools arrive speaking African American language (AAL)/Black English, their home language. A large percentage of students in urban school districts also arrive speaking their home languages: Mexican American Language/Chicano English, Hawaiian American Language/Pidgin English, and American Indian Language/Red English respectively.
What to look for:
SELs are a population of students who bring to school rich and diverse experiences, “funds of knowledge” and home language and literacy patterns that when embraced can serve as a bridge to the acquisition of school language and literacy. Their language profile is characterized by speech patterns that differ from standard and academic English phonologically–in the sounds used to construct words; morphosyntactically–in how words and sentences are formed to carry meaning; and pragmatically–in how language is used in social contexts. SELs are distinguished by their language difference and often by below grade level performance in reading, English language arts, and other content areas.
Progress in school:
Limited proficiency in standard and academic English is part of the problem, however the negative attitudes of educators toward the language of SELs is often an antecedent to their academic failure and may be the principal barrier to their academic achievement. When provided opportunities to learn that are pedagogically responsive to their linguistic and cultural needs and that incorporate rigor and high order thinking, SELs achieve at high levels.
What is AEMP?
The Academic English Mastery Program (AEMP) is a comprehensive, research-based program designed to address the acquisition of school language, literacy, and learning in students who are Standard English Learners. AEMP’s primary goal is for SELs to acquire proficiency in Standard American and academic English [the language of schools] as an important tool in accessing the core curriculum and increasing their academic achievement. This goal is achieved by building administrators’, teachers’, coaches’, paraeducators’ and parents’ knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the language and literacy experiences SELs bring to the learning environment through on-going professional development and training on linguistic and cultural diversity; on pedagogical issues; and instructional methodologies that build on those experiences to facilitate the acquisition of school language, literacy, and learning.
How do we address the specific instructional needs of SELs?
AEMP’s major focus area is enhancing classroom instruction. In order to fully access the core curriculum and post-secondary educational opportunities in the dominant U.S. culture, Standard English Learners need to be proficient in Standard American and Academic English (e.g., become literate in the forms of English that appear in newspapers, magazines, textbooks, voting materials, and consumer contracts). They must also be given opportunities to validate, appreciate, and build upon their own rich cultural, language, and literacy heritage. Six research-based access/instructional strategies that support learning for Standard English Learners are:
As we all work to reduce achievement disparities, educators must continually revise and refine practices so that all students have opportunities to succeed. Remember, “We all have a stake”. For more information on best practices for serving Standard English Learners, visit Los Angeles Unified School District’s Culturally Relevant and Responsive Education Clearinghouse or contact Dr. Cobb at 213-241-3340 or firstname.lastname@example.org