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Executive Summary

Overview

American education has focused primarily on the needs of native English-speaking children. However, a large and growing number of students in U.S. schools come from homes where the language background is other than English, and are considered to be limited-English-proficient (LEP). These students are overwhelmingly from families with low incomes and lower levels of formal education. Thirty years ago these students were expected to ''sink or swim" in a school environment that did not pay particular attention to their linguistic background. Since the 1970s, a variety of educational approaches to meeting the needs of English-language learners have been tried.1 These approaches are designed to help these students develop proficiency in English, as well as learn the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that make up the curriculum. Impetus for these programs has come from a number of sources: Congress, the courts, state legislatures, departments of education, and various professional and advocacy groups. At first, these programs were not based on research, but relied on professional intuitions, political voices, and a moral conviction that something had to be done to reverse the pattern of poor academic outcomes for these students. What

1Throughout this report, the committee has elected wherever possible to use the term "English-language learners" (proposed by Rivera [1994]) rather than the term "LEP students." The committee believes that the former is a positive term, whereas the latter assigns a negative label. Moreover, we have chosen to forgo the editorially convenient practice of reducing English-language learners to an acronym.



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Page 1 Executive Summary Overview American education has focused primarily on the needs of native English-speaking children. However, a large and growing number of students in U.S. schools come from homes where the language background is other than English, and are considered to be limited-English-proficient (LEP). These students are overwhelmingly from families with low incomes and lower levels of formal education. Thirty years ago these students were expected to ''sink or swim" in a school environment that did not pay particular attention to their linguistic background. Since the 1970s, a variety of educational approaches to meeting the needs of English-language learners have been tried.1 These approaches are designed to help these students develop proficiency in English, as well as learn the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that make up the curriculum. Impetus for these programs has come from a number of sources: Congress, the courts, state legislatures, departments of education, and various professional and advocacy groups. At first, these programs were not based on research, but relied on professional intuitions, political voices, and a moral conviction that something had to be done to reverse the pattern of poor academic outcomes for these students. What 1Throughout this report, the committee has elected wherever possible to use the term "English-language learners" (proposed by Rivera [1994]) rather than the term "LEP students." The committee believes that the former is a positive term, whereas the latter assigns a negative label. Moreover, we have chosen to forgo the editorially convenient practice of reducing English-language learners to an acronym.

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Page 2 little research existed focused on middle- and upper-middle-class Cuban exiles, populations of a different cultural background and generally of higher socioeconomic status than the typical English-language learner. Beginning in the early 1970s and continuing to the present, a research base on English-language learner issues has been built in response to a number of circumstances. Major developments in basic research, especially in the areas of language and cognitive development, followed on the heels of the cognitive revolution of the 1960s and stimulated such research on English-language learners. The political controversy over bilingual education (i.e., use of the native language in instruction) led to a line of research aimed at evaluating the comparative effectiveness of bilingual education and other approaches using only English. Moreover, general concern with educational effectiveness led to research on English-monolingual populations aimed at identifying characteristics of schools that proved effective with respect to student outcomes, and this in turn stimulated parallel work to identify characteristics of effective programs for English-language learners. Efforts have also been made to incorporate English-language learners into large national surveys, such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress. These and other developments have resulted in a rich portfolio of research on English-language learners, ranging from basic processes to program evaluation and from program characteristics research to the collection of national statistics. Almost 30 years after congressional passage of the Bilingual Education Act as Title VII of the Hawkins-Stafford Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we are now in a position to take stock of what we know and to consider ways of improving our knowledge building in this area. This task is of critical importance given the demographics of the school-age population. There has been an increase of almost 1 million English-language learners in U.S. public schools (grades K-12) in the last 10 years. As a consequence, these students make up approximately 5.5 percent of the public school student population. They are dispersed across the country, with about 6 percent of school districts serving student populations that are at least 40 percent English-language learners (Fleischman and Hopstock, 1993). Yet while the numbers of these students are increasing, their educational attainment remains low. For example, a recent Congressionally mandated study indicates that English-language learners receive lower grades, are judged by their teachers to have lower academic abilities, and score below their classmates on standardized tests of reading and math (Moss and Puma, 1995). In this context, the Committee on Developing a Research Agenda on the Education of Limited-English-Proficient and Bilingual Students was formed and given the following charge: • To review what is known about the linguistic, cognitive, and social processes involved in the education of these students.

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Page 3 • To examine the knowledge base on effective educational programming for these students and identify issues worthy of more focused attention. • To review and identify the strengths and weaknesses of the traditional methodologies in this area. • To make recommendations on research priorities in the field, the infrastructure supporting such research, human resource issues, and the use of scientific evidence to inform policy and practice in this area. Review Of Substantive Areas The committee reviewed research in a broad range of substantive areas, with a focus on how best to meet the academic and social needs of English-language learners. This report focuses on the following areas: how students learn a second language; how multiple languages are used and organized by bilingual children; how reading and writing skills develop in the first and second language; how information in specific content areas, such as mathematics and history, is learned and stored; how social and motivational factors affect learning in language-minority groups; how relations between different racial or ethnic groups are structured and moderated in school settings; how parents and communities influence and support learning; how student English proficiency and knowledge of content areas can be appropriately assessed; how programs can be evaluated with regard to achieving their goals; how school and classroom characteristics influence learning; how teacher education and professional development activities are structured to help teachers meet the needs of English-language learners; and how national education statistics include these students. For each of these areas, the following questions framed our inquiry: What do we know? How do we know it? What are promising research questions and methodologies that can advance research in this area? The committee concluded that knowledge useful to the successful education of English-language learners has accumulated differentially across these areas. Some topics, such as second-language acquisition and discourse patterns in bilingual settings, have been characterized by a cumulative progression of theories and data. The challenge in these areas, then, is to extend the research to new languages, to new aspects of language, and to new subpopulations of research subjects. Other topics, such as the learning of academic content areas, have seen important developments in the mainstream research literature, but these insights have not been extended to language-minority populations. Others, such as program evaluation and effective schools, have seen significant activity, but a serious redirection of current efforts is warranted. Still others are plainly important, yet a major effort to address the fundamental issues for English-language learners has yet to be mounted; these topics include second-language literacy, intergroup relations, and the social context of learning. Finally, in the area of education statistics—an important tool in monitoring student and program characteristics,

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Page 4 as well as educational outcomes for all students—progress in gathering systematic data on English-language learners and including these students in overall population estimates is seen as a major challenge for the immediate future. These pockets of knowledge, once developed, could be combined to provide an elaborate, formal model of research and development. This is an ideal yet to be realized, but one that the committee sees as having great potential. We envision a model of instruction that is grounded in basic knowledge about the linguistic, cognitive, and social development of language-minority children. This model would be rich enough to suggest different programs for different types of students. It would take time to formulate such a model, and the participation of researchers from very different backgrounds would be required. Yet this model could serve as the basis for designing programs that would result in better outcomes for these students. The envisioned model would be implemented in a small number of settings that would be carefully selected on the basis of student and school site characteristics. Throughout implementation, the process would be observed and described, and the implementation would be reworked. Once successful implementation had been demonstrated, the programs would be formally evaluated for outcomes. Some of these outcomes might include new and unexpected variables identified in the course of observing the implementation. The evaluation results would be used to confirm predictions of the general model. In addition, because the background characteristics of these programs could be related to the distribution of those characteristics nationally, hypotheses could be generated about the generalizability of the findings to new sites with similar and different characteristics. At this point, the programs could be disseminated as promising, and experimentation in other local sites encouraged. Once the model had been validated across a wide range of settings, the theory applied in creating effective programs could be used to guide professional development for teachers and other educators. Such a picture linking theory and practice through empirical knowledge should be the long-term vision for a research agenda in the education of English-language learners. Review Of The Infrastructure That Supports The Research In addition to our work in the above substantive areas, the committee investigated issues surrounding the infrastructure for research in this field. Our primary focus was on federal agencies, especially those in the Department of Education, but we also considered research by states and private foundations. Primary data for the analysis were interviews with key personnel and some award recipients and the background information they provided. At the federal level, questions related to the following topics guided the analysis: the organization and

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Page 5 administration of the office, unit, or division; research related to the education of English-language learners that is funded; support for centers, laboratories, or other entities that conduct research on English-language learners; support for information services or resource centers that focus, at least in part, on these students; development of the research agenda; procedures that govern procurement, monitoring, accumulation of results, collaboration, dissemination, and linkages to policy and practice; obstacles to the sponsorship of research; promising efforts; and mechanisms to support the training of education researchers. A slightly abbreviated protocol was used with states. To generate information on foundation activity, we examined annual reports from 1994 and followed up this review with queries to all foundations included in this report. Our infrastructure study revealed a number of serious obstacles to the development of an optimum research base in this field. A major factor has been the vulnerability of the agenda-setting process to external politics, as well as bureaucratic turf battles among various offices within the Department of Education. The Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Languages Affairs (OBEMLA), through its limited budget, has been the predominant voice for studies specific to English-language learners, as well as for the inclusion of these students in studies purporting to survey all students. However, OBEMLA's capacity to manage research has a mixed record. In addition, there has been a lack of staff capacity and interest among the other research offices and agencies for addressing the concerns of English-language learners. Thus, efforts at coordination and collaboration across offices have been extremely difficult to achieve, even though these students should be the concern of all offices that fund research in education. Other factors the committee identified as needing strengthening include the peer review process used to fund proposals; the processes available for monitoring research, accumulating knowledge, and developing consensus in given areas; and mechanisms for the dissemination of research results. Research Priorities: Substantive Areas In considering overall priorities for research, the committee applied four principles. These principles and the research priorities associated with each are summarized below. Principle 1: Priority should be given to important topics to which insufficient attention has been paid, but for which there already exist promising theories and research methodologies so that sound research can be conducted in the immediate future. Under this principle, the highest priorities are the topics of content area learning, second-language English literacy, intergroup relations, and the social context of learning:

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Page 6 • In the area of content learning, there exists very little fundamental research with English-language learners. Our review raised very important hypotheses about the nature of content area learning and knowledge, and the ways language learning and even the very structure of the two languages of bilinguals might interact with learning and knowledge representation. • In second-language literacy, our review noted deep paradigmatic divisions, but identified important questions that are within the reach of research, such as the necessary basis for the development of second-language literacy and the optimal literacy instruction given the students' background. • On the topic of intergroup relations, existing work has looked mainly at relations between African Americans and whites. This work has formed the basis for important theories of intergroup relations, such as social identity theory and the contact hypothesis. Such theories can be extended to look at language-minority/language-majority relations, as well as intraminority relations. At the same time, new theories may also be needed to account for the changed demographics of this country. • Research that examines language-minority students in the context of their communities and homes has enhanced our understanding of the abilities and knowledge students bring to classrooms and the socialization practices that shape their development. On the basis of this work, many educators incorporate knowledge about students' homes and communities into their instruction to increase the students' academic potential. Much of the current knowledge is based on research using qualitative and interpretive frameworks. These methodologies need to be supported and amplified through studies using systematic sampling and quantitative measures. Principle 2: Priority should be given to addressing important gaps in population coverage, such as certain age or language groups, for whom the applicability of current findings from a more limited population can be tested. Under this principle, we identified specific questions that apply to hitherto understudied groups of students: • Addressing the needs of young children in preschool programs requires a closer look at the relationship between the acquisition of English and native-language development. • English acquisition, literacy development, content area learning, intergroup relations, and the social context of learning are all important issues to be addressed for older students with little or no formal education. • Studies of older students formerly classified as having limited English proficiency would provide important insights into the needs of students who have been through special programs.

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Page 7 • Basic knowledge about the acquisition of English is needed for students with native languages other than Spanish. • Knowledge is also needed about how to provide effective programming, assessments, and teacher education for English-language learners with disabilities. Principle 3: Priority should be given to legitimate research questions that are of strong interest to particular constituencies, such as educators, policymakers, and the public at large. Under this principle, we identified a number of questions that would be of concern to Congress, the administration, and state and local education administrators; the public and the media; advocates for equity; advocates for specific programs; foreign-language advocates; and teachers. The major areas of concern common to these groups are program evaluation and accountability, the extent to which students are acquiring English and progressing academically, and the characteristics of programs that promote student development. Principal 4: Priority should be given to endeavors that would build the nation's capacity to conduct high-quality research on English-language learners and programs designed to serve their needs. Under this principle, we identified areas of research in the cognitive sciences and approaches that would combine interpretive analysis and traditional positivistic paradigms, thus offering the potential to lure new researchers into the field. In addition, we identified the following areas as particularly promising ways of building cross-institutional bridges while also addressing vital issues: early childhood education and development, characteristics of effective practice, assessment, program evaluation, and teacher education and professional development. In the conduct of such research it is important to take contextual factors—such as the socioeconomic status of children's families and their ethnic background—into consideration. Research Priorities: Research Infrastructure Building the nation's infrastructure for research on the education of English-language learners requires more than promoting interesting and methodologically mixed research. As a result of our review of the federal, state, and foundation research infrastructure, the committee developed a number of recommendations for implementing our vision for the systematic development of research and practice in the education of English-language learners. 1. A new Department of Education Advisory Committee on Research on

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Page 8   English-language Learners should be established to oversee the development of a comprehensive system for integrating the review and synthesis of new knowledge into the agenda setting, funding, and dissemination of research on English-language learners. Further, this committee would be responsible for ensuring coordination and collaboration among offices within the department. Moreover, although its charge would be department-wide, it should also address and complement the work being funded outside the department. This committee should start by addressing topics we have identified as ripe for coordination: early childhood education, characteristics of effective practice, student assessment, program evaluation, teacher education, and the respective effects of limited English proficiency and poverty. 2. The Department of Education Advisory Committee on Research on English-language Learners should sponsor conferences and other activities jointly with other agencies to highlight the value of incorporating greater numbers of English-language learners into research conducted throughout the government and foundations. Perhaps necessary at some point would be a systematic inquiry by Congress into the extent of exclusion of English-language learners from federally funded research, followed by Congressional action if the situation should warrant. This action might include incentives for more work in this area. 3. Other areas the committee identified for strengthening include the peer review process used to fund proposals; the processes available for monitoring research, accumulating knowledge, and developing consensus in given fields; and mechanisms for the dissemination of research results. The National Educational Research Policy and Priorities Board is overseeing improvements in these areas. The proposed Advisory Committee on Research on English-language Learners should ensure that the funding and conduct of research on English-language learners are included in this department-wide agenda. 4. The efforts of the National Educational Research Policy and Priorities Board to improve the system of peer review of the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) should be augmented by two additional efforts. One would be to look at uses of peer review throughout the Department of Education, not just within OERI. Such an expansion would be within the board's authority to advise on research activities across the department. The other would address how to ensure expertise on English-language learner issues throughout the peer review process. This concern could be constructively addressed by the proposed Department of Education Advisory Committee on Research on English-language Learners. 5. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) should take the lead in population coverage issues. NCES should develop a common framework within which student and program data can be collected for national statistics. This framework could be extended to accommodate samples from all studies involving English-language learners and programs that serve them. NCES should also take the initiative to monitor the population representativeness of all funded

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Page 9   research conducted by federal, state, and private organizations, and report to the Advisory Committee on Research on English-language Learners regarding important gaps in coverage. 6. NCES should work with states and with all offices that collect data on English-language learners to implement a common definition of limited English proficiency. NCES should also lead an empirical effort to develop operational measures of limited English proficiency that can be used for a variety of purposes, ranging from large-scale assessment, such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, to program-based and basic research studies, such as those funded through OERI. In addition, it should take the lead in developing procedures to incorporate English-language learners into large-scale assessments. 7. OBEMLA is the valid channel through which public-interest questions about English-language learners and programs that serve them are directed and filtered. OBEMLA should therefore take steps to identify itself as the conduit through which such public concerns are expressed. For example, OBEMLA could conduct consensus-building activities that would bring educators and advocates together with researchers to identify important questions for research investment. These areas for research could then be further developed in conjunction with the Advisory Committee on Research on English-language Learners. 8. OBEMLA provides major support for teacher education and professional development activities through Subpart 3 of Title VII. This report has shown a major need for research to improve the education of teachers who work with English-language learners. OBEMLA should take the lead in developing and evaluating approaches to the development of teachers who are specialists in teaching English-language learners, as well as those who are not specialists, but nevertheless teach a large number of such students. These approaches should be founded on a theoretically sound knowledge base regarding what and how teachers should be taught. Based on knowledge gained from this research, OBEMLA could take the initiative in working with the Office of Compensatory Education to develop guidance for professional development for teachers in Title I programs. OBEMLA could also work with the regional educational laboratories and comprehensive regional assistance centers that provide support to teachers whose classrooms include English-language learners. OBEMLA should develop consensus-building activities with the OERI institutes, especially the Students-at-Risk Institute, to identify priority areas for research that would be pursued by the institutes toward the end of improving teacher education. OERI should fund research in these areas. 9. Another important function for OBEMLA is in the development of researchers on English-language learner issues. OBEMLA already conducts a significant share of activities in this area through its Title VII Bilingual Fellowship Programs. OBEMLA should leverage this valuable source of support to attract education researchers who have not previously worked with this population, as well as to attract researchers who have traditionally not worked in the

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Page 10   area of education, for example by encouraging applications both from students in other educational fields and from students in institutions outside of schools of education. OBEMLA should also take a lead role in coordinating with other agencies and foundations in an effort to attract and develop fresh talent in this area. 10. A more long-term role for OBEMLA is to position itself so it can better utilize information on programs and their effectiveness from its Subpart 1 programs. Over the years, thousands of projects have been funded under Title VII basic programs. These programs constitute a tremendous opportunity—not yet realized—to implement theoretically driven interventions and assess their effects in different contexts. OBEMLA should work with the Planning and Evaluation Service of the Office of the Under Secretary to implement the recommendations for improving program evaluation presented in this report. To avoid problems that have arisen in the past, the staff capacity at OBEMLA should include researchers with expertise in the use of evaluation for purposes of program development. 11. Agencies in the Department of Education that have substantial responsibility for research on minority-language and English-language learner issues, such as OBEMLA, the Planning and Evaluation Service, and OERI (including the institutes, NCES, and ORAD), should allocate resources to train current staff and recruit staff with solid research experience so that there is substantive research expertise on English-language learners within the agencies. Agencies with incidental but important contact with such issues should find means to obtain the consultative expertise they need in a timely fashion. 12. States should make efforts to include English-language learners in data gathering, to disaggregate by language status where possible in reporting, to improve teacher education and development, and more generally to attend to research that will improve instructional interventions for these students. There are shared issues across states, and thus states would benefit from collaboration in these areas. 13. Foundations should develop mechanisms for providing technical assistance to school reform efforts to ensure that the needs of English-language learners are addressed. Foundations might fund projects that specifically address the educational needs of English-language learners, as well as support the development of local, state, and federal policies that would enhance their education. Finally, foundations can foster a more coherent research agenda on English-language learner issues by setting up and supporting communication in the form of ongoing networks or conferences among people who do not usually work together.

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Page 11 Conclusion As this report shows, considerable knowledge about educating English-language learners and bilingual students has already accrued, and there are ways of strengthening and building upon this knowledge. Given the demographics of the school-age population, it is critical that we take stock of what we know and make recommendations for the next generation of research. It can be hoped that the paths to that end delineated by the committee can be followed with maximum intensity and minimum distraction through a strategic combination of theory, research, program development, evaluation, and monitoring. References Fleischman, H.L., and P.J. Hopstock 1993 Descriptive Study of Services to Limited English Proficient Students, Volume 1. Summary of Findings and Conclusions. Prepared for Office of the Under Secretary, U.S. Department of Education by Development Associates, Inc., Arlington, VA. Moss, M., and M. Puma 1995 Prospects: The Congressionally Mandated Study of Educational Growth and Opportunity. First Year Report on Language Minority and Limited English Proficient Students. Prepared for Office of the Under Secretary, U.S. Department of Education by Abt Associates, Inc., Cambridge, MA. Rivera, Charlene 1994 Is it real for all kids? Harvard Educational Review 64(1):55-75.

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