What’s Been Published About ‘Academic English’?

By Mary Ann Zehr — January 05, 2009 1 min read
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The need for English-language learners to learn “academic English"—the language of the school, rather than merely the social English they might use on the playground or in the cafeteria— has been a hot topic for several years among educators of this group of students. But I keep hearing, and seeing on my visits to classrooms, that educators are struggling with how exactly to teach academic English.

The U.S. Department of Education has commissioned a review of research studies about the use of academic English at the secondary school level. The study was announced, along with two other studies about the education of ELLs, this past fall at a meeting of the LEP Partnership, which is a partnership between state and federal education officials to address the needs of ELLs. But I only just took a close look at a summary of what is to be examined in the study, and I think it’s important to draw attention to it. Find a description of all three studies, posted by the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition, here.

The questions guiding the literature review on academic English include the following:
--Who is teaching academic English at the secondary level, and what training have they received?
--What is known about the level of “academic English” proficiency required for students at the secondary level to succeed on state academic content assessments?
--What rate of achievement is realistic to expect for [ELL] students at the secondary level in meeting English-language-proficiency standards? Academic content standards?

These are good questions for educators to be considering even before the literature review is published.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.