State Ramping Up Expectations and Support for English Language Learners

Just last week Oregonians read about the latest results of assessments of English Language Proficiency among students in Oregon schools for whom English is not their first language.

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2013/09/portland_public_schools_strugg.html

The results were discouraging and many voiced concerned about the flat level of growth. However, the State Board of Education and the Oregon Department of Education have actually been working toward a major improvement in this area for sometime. On Thursday, September 19th, the State Board will have its first reading of a new set of English Language Proficiency (ELP) Standards that are targeted at two very important objectives: 1) alignment with the new Common Core State Standards and 2) focus on language usage that prepares students for college and careers. You can find the agenda and materials for the State Board meeting here:

http://www.ode.state.or.us/search/page/?=3849

The proposed new English Language Proficiency Standards can be found at:

http://www.ode.state.or.us/search/results/?id=36
Oregon is part of a national consortium of states working with the Council of Chief State School Officers and the education research organization WestED on improvements in standards and assessments of English acquisition. These new standards will significantly raise the bar for English Language acquisition for Oregon English Learners targeting improvement in the use of critical language, knowledge about language and language skills that are college and career ready. Student proficiency will be measured by new assessments that will be piloted in 2015-16 and go into full use in the 2016-17 school year. The English Language Proficiency Assessment for the 21st Century, or ELPA21, will link Oregon assessments to those in other states that have also adopted the new standards giving Oregon parents, teachers and administrators a clearer picture of readiness of Oregon English Language Learners to move ahead into college or careers.

These efforts are closely connected to the recent request for proposals from ODE for school district applications for programs in Dual-Language/ Two-way Bilingual programs. http://www.ode.state.or.us/news/announcements/announcement.aspx?id=9310&typeid=4 These funds will be used to support new district initiatives to create programs that lead to English acquisition while, at the same time, maintaining Native Language proficiency. Research supports the idea that maintaining proficiency in a native language can actually help a student learn English as a second or third language. Being able to speak more than one language is an outstanding skill for the interconnected world Oregon graduates will encounter.

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