SOESD / Newsletters / The Source / January 2005 Source: Steve Boyarsky / ELP Standards
The Newsletter of Southern Oregon Education Service District
What? More standards? And why now?
The real story behind the new English Language Proficiency (ELP) standards
By Charlie Bauer, Coordinator, Migrant Education/English Language Learners
Schools are designed to meet the needs of their students. Effective schools change and grow as their student needs change and grow. Oregon schools, like many in the United States, are facing changes in the make up of their school population. Schools, and the institutions that support them, are adjusting to increasing numbers of students who are English Language Learners (ELL). The NCELA (National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition & Language Instruction Educational Programs) states that from the academic year of 1989-1990 to 2003-2004 the ELL population of the state of Oregon went from 7,557 to 61,695 students. That’s a 716% growth rate! During the same period, the growth rate for the entire student population increased by only 7.5%.
Have Oregon teachers been given adequate tools to deal with this major change? According to the ODE’s Annual Report, the average classroom teacher had 13.1 years of teacher experience in 2003-2004. This means that many teachers earned their licenses at a point in our state’s history when issues concerning ELL’s were generally not emphasized in their training programs. They’ve been teaching in the workforce during this major change in student demographics, but often have had little access to professional development designed to prepare them to teach this new type of learner. Additionally, in 2002 the NCELA issued a report stating that in 00-01 the average ESL or ESOL certified teacher to LEP student ratio nationwide was about 1:24. Oregon’s rate was 1:42.
So, if the ELL population has skyrocketed and the number of ESOL certified teachers is relatively low, who does that leave in charge of ELL students’ education? Once again, we come back to the teacher. As our student population changes we all must embrace the need to change our instructional strategies if we wish to continue teaching effectively. According to the NCLB, all teachers, with the support of their administrators, must ensure that ELL students receive:
- Instruction in English at his or her level of proficiency in English, and
- Meaningful access to grade-level academic content
This is true, regardless of the type of program the school implements for ELL students (Two Way Immersion, early transition-bilingual, late transition-bilingual, Structured English Immersion, ESL, etc.)
Separate from NCLB, this is a goal that most of us would support. But in order to do so, we must begin to consider English language development as a separate discipline. We must begin to consider the language we use, and expect our students to use, as a separate and important discipline. This is a tall order, but the state of Oregon has responded with the ELP standards.
OK, so just what is in the new “English Language Proficiency Standards”?
The ELP standards are a tool that the ODE has provided in order to help teachers meet the needs of their second language learners. Principally, the ELP Standards were created to provide a means to track ELL students’ progress and help teachers assess and instruct Limited English Proficient (LEP) or English Language Learner (ELL) students more effectively. Oregon educators will recognize the format since the ELP standards are based on existing English Language Arts standards. They are divided into four sections (reading, writing, listening, and speaking) for each grade level, kindergarten through CIM. The ELP standards acknowledge that ELL students can acquire social, oral fluency in one to two years, but that academic competency can take five to seven years. The ELP standards are organized into six stages of language acquisition. Each stage contains descriptors of students’ proficiency level for that stage. For many regular education teachers, these descriptors may provide the first exposure to realistic expectations for students of varying abilities in English. The sixth stage represents full proficiency and is synonymous with the content standard for all Oregon students.
Additionally, the ELP standards were written by and for teachers (at least eight Southern Oregon teachers participated in their creation). Within the standards you will find suggestions on strategies appropriate for each stage of language acquisition. The strategies were embedded within the ELP standards by design so that all teachers in all types of programs would have tools to move ELL students toward mastery of the Oregon English Language Arts standards.
Where can you find them and how can you get training?
The ELP standards can be downloaded from the ODE site www.ode.state.or.us/search/results/?id=36). There are four introductory documents that more fully describe the purpose of the standards and then the standards themselves, which are downloadable by grade level.
Administrative representatives from your district have already attended a half-day overview of the standards. By the time you have read this article, a team of teachers and administrators from your district will have attended a two-day workshop that will go into greater depth on the linguistic components of the ELP standards.
The Southern Oregon ESD ELL/Migrant Education Department members are available for trainings. We are happy to come to your school and present the standards in any format that is convenient–from a one hour overview to more extensive trainings that demonstrate how the standards can be implemented in the classroom. Please feel free to give us a call at 776-8520 for further information.