Reading Strategies Impact on ELL ESL Students Capstone Project

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¶ … Reading Strategies' Impact on ELL Students

Today, more than 2 million students from non-English-speaking backgrounds attend public school in the United States and their numbers are expected to triple by 2020. The research to date confirms that these students require support in their native languages as well as in English to achieve academic proficiency, but far too few English language learners (ELLs) are receiving the level of educational support that is required. In this environment, identifying improved strategies for facilitating English language acquisition represents a timely and valuable enterprise. There are a number of challenges that are involved, but the mandates are clear. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, signed into law January 2002, placed renewed emphasis, urgency, and expectations on all states and school districts to ensure, for the first time, that every child, including those with limited English proficiency, meet the same state academic achievement standards as native English speakers at the same grade level. The purpose of this study was to identify effective vocabulary building and reading strategies for ELL students that can be used by classroom teachers to help these young learners gain academic proficiency as quickly as possible strategies.

THE IMPACT of READING STRATEGIES on ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNER/ENGLISH as SECOND LANGUAGE STUDENTS

Introduction

Background to the Problem/Issue

Educators in the United States today are faced with some profound challenges with respect to the delivery of high quality English language services for the growing numbers of students entering the schools with limited English skills. According to Mohr (2004), the numbers of students who are currently beginning their educational careers in U.S. public school classrooms enter school with a first language other than English continues to increase and all signs indicate these increases will continue well into the future. In spite of a growing body of evidence that indicates English language learner (ELL) students should be provided with ongoing support in their native languages and allowed at least 4 to 7 years to achieve academic proficiency in English, few ELL students currently enjoy this level of support.

Defined as the ability not only to use language for reading and writing as well as to acquire new information in content areas (Lee, Butler & Tippins, 2007), academic proficiency requires significant time and effort on the part of students and teachers alike. Unfortunately, though, English-language learners (ELLs) are commonly expected to become academically proficient and sufficiently fluent in English to take standardized and state-mandated tests in just a few years (Mohr, 2004). Likewise, Lee and her associates (2007) emphasize that academic proficiency in English is not achieved by ELLs overnight but rather requires several years of classroom instruction. These educators note that, "To develop 'academic proficiency in English takes longer than to grow peer-appropriate conversational skills. Academic proficiency in English includes fewer contextual clues such as body language, gestures, facial expressions, or various signs to understand meanings of texts" (p. 43). Notwithstanding the clear need for acquiring proficiency as quickly as possible, though, this level of instruction for most ELL students remains uncommon in American classrooms (Mohr, 2004). Indeed, in far too many cases, ELL students are not only failing to achieve academic proficiency, many ELL students fail to achieve sufficient progress at all to maintain parity with their native-English-speaking counterparts (Mohr, 2004)

Indeed, the stakes are truly high and there are no resources available to be wasted in the effort to help these young learners realize their full potential, but there are a number of challenges that are involved that must be addressed in order to do so. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, signed into law January 2002, placed renewed emphasis, urgency, and expectations on all states and school districts to ensure, for the first time, that every child, including those with limited English proficiency, meet the same state academic achievement standards as native English speakers at the same grade level (Freeman & Crawford, 2008).

Furthermore, NCLB mandates that American schools, and school districts, are strictly accountable for this achievement. Those school districts receiving Title I federal funds that fail to meet adequate yearly progress goals for two or more consecutive years are considered in need of improvement and underperforming and thus face a range of severe sanctions, such as school closure, firing of teachers, offering of public school choice and transportation, providing of supplemental educational services, and implementation of certain corrective actions. The pressure to demonstrate adequate yearly progress is particularly acute in schools and districts with relatively high percentages of English-language learners schools that are frequently linguistically segregated with concentrations of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds (Freeman & Crawford, 2008).

Moreover, the challenges are becoming increasingly pronounced as the sheer numbers of students who are involved are taken into account. In this regard, Saenz, Fuchs and Fuchs (2005) emphasize that, "American schools of the 21st century face the challenge of educating the world's most diverse student body. This diversity is reflected in variations in achievement, socioeconomic status, cultural background, and linguistic background" (p. 231). With respect to differences in linguistic background, current estimates indicate that more than 2 million students come from non-English-speaking backgrounds and that by the year 2020, the number of ELL students will approach six million (Saenz et al., 2005).

While the group of students with non-English-speaking backgrounds is truly diverse and includes a broad array of languages, the most largest subgroup of ELL students in the United States is currently comprised of Spanish speakers who represent 75% of ELL students today; however, membership in all groups continues to increase and these trends are expected to continue well into the foreseeable future (Saenz et al., 2005). For instance, according to Brown and Broemmel (2011), "The number of ELLs is growing rapidly every year. From 1991 to 2001, the ELL enrollment in public schools in the United States increased by 95%, while the general student population increased only by 12%" (p. 36). A concomitant trend that has accompanied this increase in ELL students in the nation's schools has been changes in the responsibilities of the educators who are involved with a growing focus on developing reading strategies that can facilitate language acquisition and help sustain it over time. As Brown and Broemmel (2011) recently observed, "Most importantly, teachers have to change the way they think about ELLs. Schools and teachers can no longer afford to think that ELLs can learn to read once they master English" (p. 35). Changing the way people think, though, is a difficult proposition under the best of circumstances and the circumstances in these cases are complex and involve high-stake outcomes that demand effective solutions, a need that directly relates to the purpose of this study which is discussed further below.

Purpose of the Study

Research has shown that the number of ELL students has been steadily increasing and these students continue to struggle when it comes to reading. Therefore, the overarching purpose of this study was to identify effective reading strategies for ELL students. This research purpose is an extension of personal and professional interest in this field. In support of this overarching purpose, the study highlights various components of instructional strategies for ELL classrooms to evaluate how a well-balanced ESL curriculum can help both students and teachers overcome preconceived notions about different cultures to create a learning environment where all students are valued for their unique heritages and individuality.

Rationale for the Project

The ability of English language learners to succeed depends in large part on regular classroom teachers instead of those educators specifically trained for the purpose and some teachers may find themselves with just a few or even a single ELL student who will require the same curricular offerings as an entire class of such students, making the need for effective learning strategies for these students all the more acute (Lewis-Moreno, 2007). In this regard, Lewis-Moreno (2007) describes a variety of methods for teachers to help students who are learning English. According to this educator, "Ever-increasing numbers of English-language learners (ELL students) arrive at the doors of U.S. public schools each year. They present myriad challenges for the educators who must serve their needs" (Lewis-Moreno, 2007, p. 772). In response to these challenges, a number of issues have emerged with respect to federal and state accountability standards that demand answers including the following:

1. How can we fairly assess students with limited English skills using the instruments developed by the state?

2. What happens to our accountability ratings if large numbers of students arrive with limited experience with formal education and have to take the tests?

3. How can we find highly qualified English as a second language teachers with certification and experience?

These questions make it clear that providing ELL students with the support they need in their native language as well as the support they need to acquire academic proficiency is a complex enterprise that demands complex solutions. Despite the need, though, many teachers remain ill prepared to assist ELL students in the classroom. Educators who are confronted with… [END OF PREVIEW]

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