Part 1: Be an Advocate
Since we founded Ellevation over two years ago, nearly every state in the country has taken steps to update its English Language Development (ELD) Standards. Members of the 33-state WIDA consortium were introduced to the Amplified Standards last summer; the ELPA21 Consortium, including Florida, continues to make progress under the leadership of the CCSSO; California just recently launched its new ELD standards, and New York isn’t far behind. Why the wholesale reconsideration of long-standing ELD standards and assessment models?
The short answer, of course, is the adoption of new college-and-career readiness content standards, most notably the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Next-Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which have forced educators and standards bodies to reconsider how ELD standards support access to the content of these more rigorous and language-rich standards. For those of us committed to the education of English Language Learners, this is an exciting and positive time – rarely has there been such focus on the needs of this population. But it also brings great challenges.
This post is the first of several in a series that I’ve whimsically called “So your state has decided to update its ELD standards…” We are going to explore, with you, some of the challenges, opportunities and practical implications of new ELD standards on the work of our ESL / ELL / Bilingual community. And, we hope to share some observations from our seat here at Ellevation about how many school districts across the country are navigating these new standards.
The first of these is: Be an advocate for your kids. In almost every state, there will be other “more important” initiatives underway including CCSS roll-out, teacher evaluation programs, wide-scale technology implementations, and myriad other high-pressure demands on school district administrators and teachers. But new/revised ELD standards are equally important. And whether you are a superintendent, ELL Coordinator, ESL specialist or content-area teacher with ELLs in your classroom, it is important that you advocate for your students by insisting on focused, rigorous implementation and application of the new standards.
While there are a number of arguments bolstering your case, including equity and legal obligations, I believe the strongest winning advocacy argument focuses on how ELD standards are critical to achieving the objectives of college-and-career readiness standards. Put bluntly, most school district leaders will fail in the new CCSS world unless they are laser-focused on ensuring that the fastest-growing population of their student body has the language supports necessary to learn English and master rigorous content. This is only possible with properly implemented ELD standards and a strong group of educator-advocates focused not only on the language-acquisition tasks at hand, but on pushing their LEA and SEA leadership forward.
It’s easy for me to opine on the hard work of advocacy – but for effective advocacy tactics and practices from a real expert, please check out our friend Diane Staehr Fenner’s new book on the topic. Next week, we’ll talk about some practical steps that district educators can take to get organized and prepare for new standards.