Common Core Ratchets Up Language Demands for English-Learners
This article describes how new content standards, such as the Common Core, are pushing for ELLs to speak “academic.” What does this mean? Academic language (also referred to as academic English), broadly defined, is the formal written and spoken language of classrooms and professional workspaces. While “no one is a speaker of academic English,” for ELLs, acquiring academic English is one of the highest bars they have to clear in order to be deemed proficient in English.
The author interviewed three national experts on English learners and instruction: Kate Kinsella, Aida Walqui, and Guadalupe Valdes. While there is some disagreement between experts on the use of the term academic language, these experts agree that for ELLs to be proficient in the school language, they need to be engaged in rigorous, academic practices (e.g., analysis, persuasion, comparison) in all content areas. Teachers, the experts stress, should be aware that knowing academic language is more than having correct language usage, like grammar, and that ELLs need multiple experiences and exposures in using the various forms and functions of academic language.