Posts By Rebecca Vonderlack-Navarro

Illinois’ student population is rapidly growing more linguistically and culturally diverse. Close to one in every 4 public school children speak a language other than English in the home, according to Illinois census data.  And the number of students who identify as English Language Learners (ELLs) statewide—now close to one out of every 10 students— has grown an astonishing 83 percent over the last 15 years.  As these students transition into general education classrooms, nearly every teacher in the state will likely be working with ELLs at some point in their careers. 

The increasing diversity of the Illinois student body stands in stark contrast to teacher demographics—largely white, female, and monolingual. ... Continue Reading

Posted In: Educators

While a “majority-minority” student population has long been a reality in Chicago, 2011 marked the first time that minority students were the majority in kindergarten, first, second, and third grade classrooms across all of Illinois. A driving force behind this demographic shift are students who come from immigrant families,  hold a range of native- and English-language abilities, and are adapting to the U.S. school system. 

The United States’ increased use of standardized testing poses significant conundrums for this emerging student population. While there is no shortage of critiques on the overall merits of standardized testing, for those on their way to learning English, the reliability, validity, and fairness of such accountability measures are especially dubious.  After being in U.S. schools... Continue Reading

Posted In: K-3, Education

Illinois is ahead of the curve in promoting educational reforms and supports that value early childhood education.  Relatively nascent advocacy efforts endorse a more expansive continuum approach, especially birth-to-age 8 (or third grade), to ensure that early education benefits are thoughtfully and purposefully carried over into the early grades.  Vital to such discussions are the ways in which such continuum reform efforts could benefit the state’s rapidly growing diverse language learner population.

What is perhaps most striking to me is that if children begin the transition to English before they are well-grounded in their native tongue—generally achieved around the third grade benchmark—it can actually limit their English language development.  English-only approaches (or transitions into English instruction before students have a... Continue Reading

Posted In: Education, K-3
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