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Science Instruction for ELLs

"Unlocking Learning: Science as a Lever for English-Learner Equity"

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Integrating innovative science courses and English-language instruction can dramatically boost student achievement in the sciences, reading, and writing, finds a new study from the Oakland, Calif.-based Education Trust West.

The report explored how six California districts with sizable English-learner populations taught science to students. The curriculum in each district was aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards, a set of common science standards adopted by states that emphasize scientific inquiry. The study notes that conducting experiments in teams forces ELL students to communicate, allowing them to practice their problem-solving and English-language skills at the same time.

To better prepare teachers to serve as science teachers for ELLs, the districts teamed up with science education institutions to access in-person and virtual training sessions.

Some of the districts saw meteoric test-score increases and many ELLs performed just as well on standardized science exams, and sometimes better than, their peers whose first language was English. They also outperformed English-learners at schools that offered few or no science classes for ELLs.

The Education Trust West analysis argues that the progress made in the districts offers hope to other school systems where ELLs, who represent roughly 1 in 5 students in California, are struggling with science instruction.

Vol. 36, Issue 19, Page 5

Published in Print: January 25, 2017, as Science Instruction for ELLs
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