April 30, 2014
When English Proficiency Isn’t Enough

COMPTON, Calif. — A large color photograph of an iceberg on display in teacher Angel Chavarin’s fourth-grade classroom at Laurel Street Elementary may not be the typical prop for a language arts lesson. But Chavarin is hoping visuals like this will help his students better understand the concept of inferences, which are, in effect, “the tip of the iceberg.”
Inferences are not an easy concept for young children to grasp, and it may be particularly difficult for the students of Laurel Street, where more than 60 percent of students are English learners.
But it’s a skill Chavarin knows his students need to master as California, along with 44 other states, transitions to the new Common Core State Standards. Created in 2010, the Common Core aims to prepare American students for college and careers by emphasizing critical thinking and problem solving. While the Common Core does not dictate a specific curriculum or reading list, it encourages language-arts teachers to expose students to challenging literature and nonfiction texts as well as sophisticated vocabulary. When writing and speaking in class, students are expected to present arguments and provide analysis backed by evidence, not opinion. Reading comprehension should include more than proof of recall; students need to demonstrate their ability to grasp big ideas as well as the nuanced inferences embedded in the text.
But some educators, including those enthusiastic about the Common Core, have publicly worried about the repercussions of raising the bar for groups of students who are already lagging behind, like those still learning English. They fear that the achievement gap between native speakers and English learners will widen, particularly in schools where teachers have little training and few resources. “Schools here have been working hard to address this issue for some time,” said Ben Sanders of the California Office to Reform Education. The Common Core “adds extra complexity. We’re worried that people will get overwhelmed.”
Read more. [Image: Ted S. Warren/AP Photo]

When English Proficiency Isn’t Enough

COMPTON, Calif. — A large color photograph of an iceberg on display in teacher Angel Chavarin’s fourth-grade classroom at Laurel Street Elementary may not be the typical prop for a language arts lesson. But Chavarin is hoping visuals like this will help his students better understand the concept of inferences, which are, in effect, “the tip of the iceberg.”

Inferences are not an easy concept for young children to grasp, and it may be particularly difficult for the students of Laurel Street, where more than 60 percent of students are English learners.

But it’s a skill Chavarin knows his students need to master as California, along with 44 other states, transitions to the new Common Core State Standards. Created in 2010, the Common Core aims to prepare American students for college and careers by emphasizing critical thinking and problem solving. While the Common Core does not dictate a specific curriculum or reading list, it encourages language-arts teachers to expose students to challenging literature and nonfiction texts as well as sophisticated vocabulary. When writing and speaking in class, students are expected to present arguments and provide analysis backed by evidence, not opinion. Reading comprehension should include more than proof of recall; students need to demonstrate their ability to grasp big ideas as well as the nuanced inferences embedded in the text.

But some educators, including those enthusiastic about the Common Core, have publicly worried about the repercussions of raising the bar for groups of students who are already lagging behind, like those still learning English. They fear that the achievement gap between native speakers and English learners will widen, particularly in schools where teachers have little training and few resources. “Schools here have been working hard to address this issue for some time,” said Ben Sanders of the California Office to Reform Education. The Common Core “adds extra complexity. We’re worried that people will get overwhelmed.”

Read more. [Image: Ted S. Warren/AP Photo]

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    When English Proficiency Isn’t Enough COMPTON, Calif. — A large color photograph of an iceberg on display in teacher...
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