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Monday, January 28, 2013

Differentiation Ensures Student Success at All Levels of English

With the new semester, teachers plan on offering students a chance to begin anew.  It is a fresh start for all and this carries weight with ELLs who believe that they may be able to earn higher grades this time.  Though this may be a realistic for some, for others it may be an unrealistic dream without some changes in instructional delivery and additional support from the school. 

How can such students pass this semester?  Teachers try their best, but with class sizes over 35, it is often a challenge.  That being said, the ACLU is suing California for denying educational equity to 20,000 English language learners.  These students are not receiving any services to academically survive in public schools.  Basically, they are being denied high school diplomas due to lack of language support among other things.

So what is one approach that might dramatically lower such a number?  Differentiation of instruction with lots of follow up for the strugglers.  DIFFERENTIATION AS TOOL TO LEAVE NO STUDENT BEHIND  --  offers one approach with a high success rate.  Though it is done at the elementary school level, it would work equally well at the middle or high school level as well.  The difference for me that leads to success here is that the staff has a plan to catch the strugglers early on.  After their weekly formal assessments (untimed so that those who don't finish can complete it after school), the tests are scored and those that did poorly are assigned to their best teacher to RETEACH the material.  This approach leads to more students moving on to increasingly more complex work with success. 

English language learners need that extra time with a gifted teacher to help them keep up with their English speaking peers.  It is not a matter of IQ, but rather an issue of accessing academic content, and language demands.  Content departments may wish to look at creating "catch-up" classes based on student performance so that every student has a realistic chance of doing well in class.

Denise

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