English-Learners & Immigrants

Research Advancing on ‘Academic English’

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints

The sophistication level of talk about what kind of “academic English” immigrant children need to know to do well in school has come a long way since Canadian researcher Jim Cummins first identified the difference between “social English” and academic English in 1980.

Generally, education scholars view social English as what children speak on the playground or in the cafeteria, and academic English as what they use to learn new knowledge and skills in the classroom.

Alison L. Bailey, an associate professor in psychological studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, is the editor of a new book, The Language Demands of School: Putting Academic English to the Test, published by Yale University Press, that moves the discussion of academic English several steps further.

Allison Bailey

Ms. Bailey and Frances A. Butler, a retired researcher from UCLA, spell out a “framework” for academic English that they hope will be used by test developers to create the English-language-proficiency tests that states are required to administer to English-language learners under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. ("New Era for Testing English-Learners Begins," July 12, 2006.)

The researchers also hope the framework will be picked up by educators developing curricula for English-language learners and their teachers.

The researchers’ work describes various aspects of academic English, including a determination of what school language is appropriate for certain grades or clusters of grades, and identification of a “common core” of language in school that cuts across subjects.

Another characteristic of academic English is language specific to certain subjects. For example, when the researchers examined the science-content standards for elementary school students of four states, they found that the words analyze, compare, describe, observe, and record are used in all of them.

Ms. Bailey writes that before enactment of the NCLB law five years ago, tests of English-language proficiency focused only on social or general uses of English. Now, states are starting to implement tests that measure the kind of English “aligned with the discourse of the classroom, textbooks, educational standards, and content-area assessments.”

Vol. 26, Issue 22, Page 13

Published in Print: February 7, 2007, as Research Advancing on ‘Academic English’
Related Stories

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories





Sponsor Insights

Vocabulary Development for Striving Readers

Free Ebook: How to Implement a Coding Program in Schools

Successful Intervention Builds Student Success

Effective Ways to Support Students with Dyslexia

Stop cobbling together your EdTech

Integrate Science and ELA with Informational Text

Can self-efficacy impact growth for ELLs?

Disruptive Tech Integration for Meaningful Learning

Building Community for Social Good

5 Resources on the Power of Interoperability from Unified Edtech

New campaign for UN World Teachers Day

5 Game-Changers in Today’s Digital Learning Platforms

Hiding in Plain Sight - 7 Common Signs of Dyslexia in the Classroom

The research: Reading Benchmark Assessments

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

All Students Are Language Learners: The Imagine Learning Language Advantage™

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

How to Support All Students with Equitable Pathways

2019 K-12 Digital Content Report

3-D Learning & Assessment for K–5 Science

Climate Change, LGBTQ Issues, Politics & Race: Instructional Materials for Teaching Complex Topics

Closing the Science Achievement Gap

Evidence-based Coaching: Key Driver(s) of Scalable Improvement District-Wide

Advancing Literacy with Large Print

Research Sheds New Light on the Reading Brain

Tips for Supporting English Learners Through Personalized Approaches

Response to Intervention Centered on Student Learning

The Nonnegotiable Attributes of Effective Feedback

SEE MORE Insights >