A recent article from the Omaha World-Herald (on Omaha.com) highlighted the work of the Nebraska Department of Education in updating the state’s science standards, including partnering with McREL to compare existing standards with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). McREL’s analysis showed content was similar but that the NGSS goes “deeper,” indicating the opportunity for NDE to raise the rigor and complexity of its standards statewide.
An interview with McREL President and CEO Bryan Goodwin is featured in the latest episode of TLTalkRadio, a weekly podcast focused on leading schools in the digital age. Hosts Lynn Fuini-Hetten and Randy Ziegenfuss talk to Bryan about the future of education, inside-out reform, and McREL’s two most recent whitepapers, The Road Less Traveled and Rebalancing Formative Assessment.
In a recent post on ASCD’s Inservice blog, McREL’s Jane Hill focuses on newly arrived ELL students at the middle and high school levels who have limited or interrupted formal education and suggests strategies that can help teachers meet these students’ unique needs. A focus on functional literacy, for example, and speaking basics is a good place to start, Hill writes, so that students can “do the authentic reading and writing they need to function” as soon as possible. She also suggests an approach developed by Stanford researcher Jeff Zwiers referred to as PIE, which reminds teachers that speaking and listening activities should be purposeful, include intentional language or fill in an information gap, and be used for explicit language development.
In the latest Research Says column in Educational Leadership, McREL’s Bryan Goodwin and Heather Hein look at why, after years of various approaches to reduce the achievement gap between English-language learners (ELLs) and non-ELLs, the gap refuses to budge.
Despite dramatically rising numbers of ELLs in our nation’s schools, language acquisition is still largely misunderstood, the authors write, due in large part to a lack of professional development. This misunderstanding can lead to unrealistic expectations and a “deficit-thinking” mindset that puts ELLs at fault for their low performance. Goodwin and Hein suggest an “asset-based” approach to teacher education could help—one that focuses on language and diversity not as problems to solve but as opportunities to prepare all students for a globally connected world.
In the February issue of Educational Leadership, McREL’s Jane Hill focuses on six key actions teachers should and shouldn’t take when trying to engage and challenge beginning-level English-language learners. For example, teachers need to understand each ELL’s stage of language acquisition and not group them into too-broad categories, like “high level” and “low level.” Also, it’s important that all students—even the lowest-level ELLs—are engage in the same level of thinking. In other words, don’t water down the curriculum, regardless of an ELL’s level of English language acquisition.