Choosing instructional materials wisely is one of the most important jobs education leaders and teachers have. Through culturally responsive and sustaining education, all students experience learning that is collaborative, joyful, and empowering. Through this approach, students see their cultural experiences, funds of knowledge, interests, and daily life elevated in all aspects of schooling—from educators’ beliefs and behaviors to the content in the curriculum. Many educators want to embrace culturally responsive and sustaining teaching, but they lack the instructional materials necessary to do so well. This report argues that embracing high-quality instructional materials that are both rigorous and relevant is crucial to addressing equity in education. The report offers promising practices for state and district leaders.
Embracing Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Instructional Materials
Jenny Muñiz (August 2021). Embracing Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Instructional Materials: Promising Strategies for State and District Leaders. Washington, DC: New America.
Beyond Decoding: A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Language Comprehension Interventions on K–5 Students’ Language and Literacy Outcomes
Silverman, R.D., Johnson, E.M., Keane, K., & Khanna, S. (2020). Beyond Decoding: A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Language Comprehension Interventions on K–5 Students’ Language and Literacy Outcomes. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S207– S233. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.346
The debate over the science of reading has focused primarily on decoding (i.e., connecting letters and sounds to read words) and whether to use phonics to teach it. However, research on reading has included much more than decoding. Language comprehension, which allows readers to derive meaning from text, is an equally critical component of reading. Research has suggested that explicit instruction on the components of language comprehension—vocabulary and semantics, morphology, and syntax—can support language and reading comprehension. To inform the field on the science of reading as it pertains to language comprehension, in this meta-analysis of recent language comprehension interventions (n = 43) in U.S. elementary schools, the authors examined whether effects vary depending on participant and intervention characteristics. Findings suggest positive effects on custom measures of vocabulary, listening comprehension, and reading comprehension but not on standardized measures of these outcomes. Results also indicate positive effects for English learners and promise for multicomponent interventions and those that include technology. Much more research is needed on how best to support language comprehension for underserved populations (e.g., students from low-income backgrounds) and how interventions can be optimized to support generalizable language and literacy outcomes. Implications for policy and practice are discussed.
Beyond the Simple View of Reading: The Role of Executive Functions in Emergent Bilinguals’ and English Monolinguals’ Reading Comprehension
Barber, A.T., Cartwright, K.B., Hancock, G.R., and Klauda, S.L. (2021). Beyond the Simple View of Reading: The Role of Executive Functions in Emergent Bilinguals’ and English Monolinguals’ Reading Comprehension. Reading Research Quarterly, 56(S1), S45– S64. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.385
The simple view of reading describes reading as the product of decoding (D) and listening comprehension (LC). However, the simple view of reading has been challenged, and evidence has proved it to be too simple to explain the complexities of reading comprehension in the elementary school years. Hypotheses have been advanced that there are cognitive-linguistic factors that underlie the common variance between D and LC, which are malleable, although there is no clarity at this point regarding what these are. We propose that one such group of malleable cognitive factors is executive function (EF) skills. Further, we posit that EF skills play equally strong roles in explaining reading comprehension variance in emergent bilinguals and English monolinguals. In this study, results show that the indirect effect of cognitive flexibility through LC on reading comprehension was considerably larger for emergent bilinguals than for English monolinguals. Considerations for a more nuanced view of the simple view of reading and its implications for practice are discussed.
English Reading Growth in Spanish‐Speaking Bilingual Students: Moderating Effect of English Proficiency on Cross‐Linguistic Influence
Jackie Eunjung Relyea, Steven J. Amendum. English Reading Growth in Spanish‐Speaking Bilingual Students: Moderating Effect of English Proficiency on Cross‐Linguistic Influence. Child Development, 2019; DOI: 10.1111/cdev.13288
This study found that children who had strong early reading skills in their native Spanish language when they entered kindergarten experienced greater growth in their ability to read English from kindergarten through fourth grade. When the researchers factored in how well the students spoke English, it turned out that native language reading skills mattered more — even at kindergarten entry — to the students' growth across time. These results indicate that children who had stronger Spanish reading skills upon entering kindergarten did better across time, even than their Spanish-speaking peers who were more fluent in speaking English but less proficient in reading Spanish. For parents, the message is simple: read to your children in whatever is your best language. The skills they learn from reading with you will translate in the classroom no matter what language you use.
Dual-Language Immersion Programs Raise Student Achievement in English
Jennifer L. Steele, Robert Slater, Gema Zamarro, Trey Miller, Jennifer J. Li, Susan Burkhauser, Michael Bacon. Dual-Language Immersion Programs Raise Student Achievement in English (2017). Rand Corporation Research Brief.
English learners assigned to dual language immersion were morelikely than their peers to be classified as English proficient by grade 6. This effect was mostly attributed to English learner students whose native language matched the classroom partner language.
Improving Content Area Reading Comprehension of Spanish Speaking English Learners in Grades 4 and 5 Using Web-based Text Structure Instruction
The text structure strategy has shown positive results on comprehension outcomes in many research studies with students at Grades 2, 4, 5, and 7. This study is the first implementation of instruction about the text structure strategy expressly designed to accommodate the linguistic and comprehension needs of Spanish speaking ELs in Grades 4 and 5. Strategy instruction on the web for English learners (SWELL) was designed to deliver instruction about the text structure strategy to Spanish speaker English learners. Results show moderate to large-effects favoring the students in the SWELL classrooms over the control classrooms on important measures such as a standardized reading comprehension test and main idea and cloze tasks. This research has practical implications for the use of web-based tools to provide high-quality and supportive instruction to improve Spanish speaking ELs reading comprehension skills.
Differing Cognitive Trajectories of Mexican American Toddlers: The Role of Class, Nativity, and Maternal Practices
Fuller, B., Bein, E., Kim, Y., and Rabe-Hesketh, S. (2015) Differing Cognitive Trajectories of Mexican American Toddlers: The Role of Class, Nativity, and Maternal Practices, Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences 20 February 2015.
This study revealed that Latino toddlers whose language comprehension is roughly similar to white peers at 9 months old fall significantly behind by the time they are two years old. The study found that four-fifths of the nation's Mexican American toddlers lagged three to five months behind whites in preliteracy skills, oral language and familiarity with print materials. Mothers of toddlers who fell behind were more likely to be foreign-born, low-income and less educated. They were also less likely to read to their children daily or give them as much praise and encouragement as those whose children kept pace with white peers.s. Although earlier studies have shown that Latino children are raised with emotional warmth and develop social skills on par with others when they enter kindergarten, the new research found they are not receiving sufficient language and literacy skills at home
The Case for a Two-Generation Approach for Educating English Language Learners
Ross, T. (May 2015). The Case for a Two-Generation Approach for Educating English Language Learners. Washington, D.C.: The Center for American Progress.
This report provides an overview of the ELL population in the United States; explains why a two-generation approach is a valuable strategy to improve English proficiency and the economic well-being of families and communities; and presents case studies of promising approaches for educating ELL students and parents while providing critical wraparound services to enhance the learning process.
Identifying and supporting English learner students with learning disabilities: Key issues in the literature and state practice
Burr, E., Haas, E., and Ferriere, K. (July 2015). Identifying and supporting English learner students with learning disabilities: Key issues in the literature and state practice, U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, Regional Educational Laboratory at WestEd.
This review of research and policy literature — aimed at district and state policymakers — distills several key elements of processes that can help identify and support English learner students with learning disabilities. It also describes current guidelines and protocols used by the 20 states with the largest populations of English learner students. The report informs education leaders who are setting up processes to determine which English learner students may need placement in special education programs as opposed to other assistance. The report acknowledges that the research base in this area is thin.
Print-related practices in low-income Latino homes and preschoolers’ school-readiness outcomes
Schick, A.R., Melzi, G. Print-related practices in low-income Latino homes and preschoolers’ school-readiness outcomes, Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, July 5, 2015. doi: 10.1177/1468798415592009
This study examined literacy practices in the homes of 127 low-income Latino preschoolers enrolled in bilingual preschool classrooms. Researchers investigated the print-related practices that Latino primary caregivers engaged in with their preschool-aged children at the start of the school year and explored the relation between these practices and children’s language, literacy, and social–emotional school-readiness outcomes at the end of the preschool year. The results demonstrate the importance of print – including books and non-book-related environmental print – for Latino preschool children’s development of early literacy and self-regulation skills. In addition, the results highlight that when sharing picture books with their children, low-income Latino caregivers provided the majority of the information to their children, and ask few questions of them, thereby adopting a sole-narrator participatory role.
Giving English Language Learners the Time They Need to Succeed
Farbman, D. (December 2015) Giving English Language Learners the Time They Need to Succeed. Boston, MA: The National Center for Time and Learning.
With the number of students who are English language learners (ELLs) likely to double in coming years, it’s more important than ever for schools across the U.S. to design and implement educational practices and strategies that best meet ELLs’ learning needs. To inform both practitioners and policymakers in bringing about this higher level of school support, the report profiles three expanded-time elementary schools, providing both the framework and compelling examples for understanding how the strategies and effective practices aimed at helping ELL students blend together to produce a high-quality education and serve as the foundation for future success. The report identifies four best practices that worked in the schools: (1) Extended literacy blocks, with upwards of 2.5 hours per day focused on skills needed for reading and writing; (2) Using data to pinpoint areas where individual students struggle, then subdividing those students into small groups where staff can help address the challenges; (3) Maintaining support and services for fluent-speaking English-learners who need to boost their academic English skills; and (4) Ensuring that teachers meet often to align lesson plans, and identify and address student needs.
Same, Different and Diverse: Understanding Children Who Are English Language Learners
Bank Street College and Education Development Center, Inc. (2014) Same, Different and Diverse: Understanding Children Who Are English Language Learners, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Head Start, National Center on Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness.
One third of the children enrolled in Early Head Start and Head Start are Dual Language Learners (DLLs). They are a diverse group who have different languages, experiences, strengths, and gifts. Recent research points out the similarities among ALL young children — those who are leaning one or several languages (e.g., children are born with natural capabilities for language and for learning); differences between children growing up with one language (monolinguals) and children who are DLLs (e.g., children may learn some ideas such as counting, in one of their languages but not the other); and diversity among children who are DLLs (e.g., individual differences of temperament, interests,etc.). Early Head Start and Head Start programs can best support the school readiness for Dual Language Learners when they understand each child's unique characteristics and needs.
The Magic of Words
Susan B. Neuman and Tanya S. Wright (Summer 2014) American Educator, Vol. 38, No. 2, American Federation of Teachers.
From the beginning of schooling, children from various socioeconomic groups differ greatly in their vocabulary knowledge; those from high-income families tend to know many more words than those from low-income ones. Research shows that certain practices for teaching vocabulary — an important building block for learning — such as making connections among words and repeatedly exposing students to content-related words, can accelerate young children's oral vocabulary development, regardless of family income.
Culture Counts: Engaging Black and Latino Parents of Young Children in Family Support Programs
Shannon Moodie, Manica Ramos (2014) Culture Counts: Engaging Black and Latino Parents of Young Children in Family Support Programs. Child Trends: Bethesda, MD.
This report provides an overview of family support programs and aims to identify the features and strategies that may be most effective for reaching and engaging black and Latino families, with the ultimate goal of supporting young children’s development. The report presents a synthesis of available research on parent engagement — as well as potential barriers to their engagement — in family support services and programs, and recommendations, for both policymakers and practitioners, for designing, adapting, and evaluating culturally-relevant family support programs and services.
Pre-K-3rd: Challenging Common Myths About Dual Language Learners
Teachers' Instruction and Students' Vocabulary and Comprehension: An Exploratory Study With English Monolingual and Spanish–English Bilingual Students in Grades 3–5
Silverman, Rebecca D. , Patrick Proctor, C. , Harring, Jeffrey R. , Doyle, Brie , Mitchell, Marisa A. , & Meyer, Anna G. (2013). Teachers' Instruction and Students' Vocabulary and Comprehension: An Exploratory Study With English Monolingual and Spanish–English Bilingual Students in Grades 3–5. Reading Research Quarterly, 49(1), 31–60.
This study explored the relationship between teachers' instruction and students' vocabulary and comprehension in grades 3–5. The secondary aim of this study was to investigate whether this relationship differed for English monolingual and Spanish–English bilingual students. The researchers investigated how the frequency of different types of instruction was associated with change in students' vocabulary and comprehension across the school year. Teachers' instruction related to definitions, word relations, and morphosyntax was positively associated with change in vocabulary; teachers' instruction related to application across contexts and literal comprehension was negatively associated with change in vocabulary; and teachers' instruction related to inferential comprehension was positively associated with change in comprehension. The findings also revealed an interaction between language status and teachers' instruction, such that instruction that attended to comprehension strategies was associated with greater positive change in comprehension for bilingual (but not for monolingual) students.
Head Start and the Changing Demographics of Young Children
Golden, O. (2011). Head start and the changing demographics of young children. NHSA Dialog, 14(1).
Head Start and Early Head Start programs have always understood that high-quality services are grounded in a thorough understanding of the children and families in their communities. And the portrait of our nation's children is changing rapidly. Results from the 2010 Census show a dramatic change in the racial and ethnic composition of children, particularly increases in Hispanic and Asian children and declines in white children (and a slight decline nationally in the number of black children). Other recent national surveys show a sharp increase in the proportion of children, and young children in particular, whose parents are immigrants. Based on these trends and recent Urban Institute research, this paper makes four recommendations about how local Head Start practitioners can best meet the needs of today's young children and their families.
Starting Out Right: Pre-K and Kindergarten
Hull, Jim. Starting Out Right: Pre-K and Kindergarten. 2011 The Center for Public Education: Alexandria, VA
The report looks at the effect of various combinations of pre-k and kindergarten on third grade reading skills, a key predictor of future academic success. Findings show that children who attend pre-k and half-day kindergarten are more likely to have higher reading skills by the third grade than those who attend full-day kindergarten alone. The impact was greatest for Hispanic children, black children, English Language Learners, and children from low-income families.
Reading and Language Outcomes of a Five-Year Randomized Evaluation of Transitional Bilingual Education
Slavin, R.E., Madden, N., Calderon, M., Chamberlain, A., & Hennessy, M. (2010). Reading and language outcomes of a five-year randomized evaluation of transitional bilingual education. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University.
Recently published results from a 5-year randomized study indicate that Spanish-speaking children learn to read English equally well regardless of whether they are taught primarily in English or in both English and their native language. The first of its kind, the study compares English and Spanish language / reading performance of Spanish-dominant children who, from kindergarten, were randomly assigned to Transitional Bilingual Education or Sheltered English Immersion. A summary of the report is available through the What Works Clearinghouse website.
Creating Schools that Support Success for English Language Learners
Stepanek , J, Raphael , J, Autio, E, Deussen, T, & Thomps, L. (2010). Creating schools that support success for english language learners. Lessons Learned, 1(2), Education Northwest.
Lessons derived from Education Northwest's research, evaluation, and technical assistance experiences are intended to address questions that administrators may have about how to mitigate barriers to the linguistic and academic achievement of ELLs. They will also help leaders provide better support to teachers as they learn and implement evidence-based instructional practices for ELLs.
Putting the Pieces of the Puzzle Together: How Systematic Vocabulary Instruction and Expanded Learning Time Can Address the Literacy Gap
White, C.E. and Kim, J.S., Harvard Graduate School of Education (2009). Putting the Pieces of the Puzzle Together: How Systematic Vocabulary Instruction and Expanded Learning Time Can Address the Literacy Gap. Washington, D.C.: Center for American Progress.
This report makes several recommendations to address disparities in vocabulary and spoken language based on children's family income and English-language proficiency. Schools should use systematic vocabulary instruction throughout the school day and during expanded learning time, sustain a school-wide program, regularly assess student knowledge, and help teachers target the right words during instruction. The report suggests that expanded learning time policies may enhance the effectiveness of systematic vocabulary instruction for low-income children and English language learners.
Dual Language Learners in the Early Years: Getting Ready to Succeed in School
National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition (NCELA) (2008). Dual Language Learners in the Early Years: Getting Ready to Succeed in School. Washington, D.C.: NCELA.
This report reviews the literature on getting dual language learners ready for school. Dual language learners are children from 3-6 years old who are learning a second language while still acquiring their first. The report looks at ways in which families, communities, services and schools can work together to get children ready to succeed in the early years of education.
A Cultural, Linguistic, and Ecological Framework for Response to Intervention with English Language Learners
Brown, J. E., and Doolittle, J. (2008). A Cultural, Linguistic, and Ecological Framework for Response to Intervention with English Language Learners. Teaching Exceptional Children, 40(5), 66-72.
Looking through the lens of culturally responsive practice, we consider how best to implement Response to Intervention (RTI) in a way that will provide equitable educational opportunity for students who are English Language Learners.
Effective Literacy and English Language Instruction for English Learners in the Elementary Grades
Gersten, R., Baker, S.K., Shanahan, T., Linan-Thompson, S., Collins, P., & Scarcella, R. (2007). Effective Literacy and English Language Instruction for English Learners in the Elementary Grades: A Practice Guide (NCEE 2007-4011). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/publications/practiceguides.
The target audience for this guide is a broad spectrum of school practitioners such as administrators, curriculum specialists, coaches, staff development specialists and teachers who face the challenge of providing effective literacy instruction for English language learners in the elementary grades. The guide also aims to reach district-level administrators who develop practice and policy options for their schools.
Scaffolding English Language Learners and Struggling Readers in a Universal Literacy Environment with Embedded Strategy Instruction and Vocabulary Support
Proctor, C. P., Dalton, B., and Grisham, D.L. (2007). "Scaffolding English language learners and struggling readers in a universal literacy environment with embedded strategy instruction and vocabulary support." Journal of Literacy Research, 39, 71-93.
Today teachers are charged with including all students in literacy instruction, even those who have previously struggled in traditional school environments. One group that has struggled in the past is English Language Learners (ELLs). Proctor, Dalton, and Grisham discuss a 4-week study that used supported digital text to assist ELLs with reading comprehension. They found that embedding features did help promote learners' use of comprehension strategies.
August, D., & Hakuta, K. (1997). Program evaluation. In D. August & K. Hakuta (Eds.), Improving Schooling for Language-Minority Children: A Research Agenda (pp. 139-162). Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
From the introduction:
During the 1970s and 1980s, the federal government and advocates were keenly interested in determining which model was more effective. Program evaluations were intended to provide a definitive answer to this question. This chapter examines what we know from program evaluations conducted to date and identifies research needs in this area.
Multicultural Perspectives on Literacy Research
Au, K. (1995). Multicultural perspectives on literacy research. Journal of Reading Behavior, 27, 85-100.
Describes the broad territory covered by researchers whose work reflects various multicultural perspectives on literacy. Discusses four areas of literacy research that reflect these perspectives: critical analyses, cultural difference analyses, bilingual analyses, and literary analyses. Also discusses the foremost proponents of each perspective.
The Relation Between First- and Second-Language Skills: Evidence from Puerto Rican Elementary School Children in Bilingual Programs
Lanauze, M., & Snow, C.E. (1989). The relation between first- and second-language skills: Evidence from Puerto Rican elementary school children in bilingual programs. Linguistics and Education, 1, 323-340.
Writing skills of 38 fourth and fifth graders in a Spanish-English bilingual program were assessed using a picture description task administered in both Spanish and English. The children had been rated by their teachers as ‘good’ or ‘poor’ on the basis of oral, aural, and reading skills in both Spanish and English, producing three groups: children rated good in both languages (GG), children rated poor in both languages (PP), and children rated poor in English but good in Spanish (PG). Measures of complexity, sophistication, and semantic content of the children's writing showed significant group differences, with the GG and the PG groups scoring better than the PP group in Spanish, as would be expected, but also in English. The fact that the PG group wrote longer, syntactically more complex, and semantically more complete essays than the PP group in English as well as in Spanish suggests they were transferring academic and literacy skills from L1 to L2 before their L2 oral-aural skills had developed very far. The poor performance of the PP group in English could be a reflection of their lack of academic and literacy skills in their first language.