Abstract

Spanish is the second most common language in the United States. Spanish speakers are migrating to the United States from all over the world, particularly

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Mexico, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. Because many of these immigrants do not speak English when they first arrive, English as a Second Language (ESL) education is a very important topic right now. Unfortunately as the number of ESL students is rising their chances at academic success are falling. This is in part due to the class sizes that are growing and the resources that are not, but also in part due to the program's lack of emphasis on bilingualism.
I feel it is safe to say that the education of non-English speakers is far from ideal. In fact I would go so far to say that
the system is not only failing to meet government standards but it is failing the students that are in the program. ESL is currently a system based on assimilation, instead of acculturation. The majority of students in the program to not meet state testing standards and very few exceed. Many ESL students will not graduate from high school. Although, this does not mean the program and it's students are not a lost cause, studies have shown that with some major alterations the program can help the students succeed not only in the k-12 educational system but in the rest of their lives as well.


Current ESL Program

teach-newFeature-1-1070x350-1.pngThe current ESL program is based off of a five year plan to create proficient English speakers. English learners are evaluated on a scale from one to five. Level one learners are beginners while a level five student is advanced and almost proficient. Students in the ESL program are expected to make one full year of progress every school year despite their age, until they complete level five. Students in Oregon ESL programs use the Focused Approach to Systematic English Language Development teaching strategy (1). This approach is primarily writing based system that attempts to help students comprehend as much English grammar as possible in a single school year. Another teaching strategy critical to the ESL program is Sheltered Instruction. This strategy is named "Sheltered Instruction" because it teaches other subjects, like math, social studies, and science, inside of the general English Language instruction. Many ESL programs also offer after school after school English Language Development programs to help students who are available and wish to receive extra help. ELD also assists with per-assessment for Special Education of Talented and Gifted (TAG) programs. Overall the program covers heavy amounts of grammar every year and focuses solely on the acquisition of English.


Struggling for Success

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Studies have shown that the achievement gap between English language learners and standard students it is not shrinking, if this gap is changing at all it is slowly getting wider. Out of the 121 Oregon ESL districts only 19 met the standards of Oregon's Annual Measurable Achievement Objective report. And only 52% of ESL learners graduate from high school (2). However this do
es not mean that the students are not learning English, instructors have observed that conversing with English only speaking students gets much easier as their English skills develop, however academic language remains a serious struggle (3). With results like thes
e it is obvious that the ESL program is in need of some major adjustments, because what we are doing now is obviously no affective.

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Two Languages are Better than One

The biggest issue with the ESL program is it completely devalues and disregards the student's original language and attempts to replace it with English. However, studies show that dual language learning creates a much better retention rate and deeper understanding of the new language (4). Continuing the education of the original language creates self-confidence in the student and increases their learning abilities. Bilingual Immersion programs have been proven much more effective and efficient than traditional ESL programs.
Another way to improve educational standards is to offer the tests in languages other than English. The United States does not have an official language so I do not understand why states cannot offer standardized tests in languages other than English. In fact, it seems wrong not to offer students the resources they need to succeed, a student may be very academically proficient, but if they do not understand the language of the evaluations they are not going to be able to prove their proficiency.


Source

  1. English as a Second Language Department: Fast Facts March 2012
  2. CBS Seattle: Lack of Education Progress for ESL Students "Simply Unacceptable"
  3. Educational Leadership: The Demographic Imperative
  4. The Astounding Effectiveness of Dual Education for All