Common Core Standards for English Language Learners?


The Newest Common Core Standards to Come Down the Pike Include a Framework for the English Language Learners That is Already Being Adopted by Many State Education Departments

By Cameron Pipkin

There’s big news about the Common Core this week that I’d be remiss not to mention. If you teach in K-12 or follow education news (and most of my readers do), you'll know about the legislative efforts in many states over the years on behalf of English language learners (ELL). Most states have received some type of education mandate to help elevate their ELL students. In states with particularly large populations of ELL, districts have received funding to design courses and provide resources that level the learning playing field as much as possible for ELL students.

Unfortunately, though they’re only a few months into the Standards in most states, the Common Core has thrown a wrench into ELL achievement because by most measures, the Common Core is much more rigorous than state standards of the past, and therefore much more difficult for ELL students to master.

In order to help educators guide ELL students toward mastery of the Common Core Standards, CCSSO has coordinated the development of a framework to assist states in developing or adapting English Language Proficiency (ELP) standards to align with the Common Core, called the “English Language Proficiency Development Framework.” The Development Framework describes what some are calling Common Core Standards for English Language Learners:

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have been adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia as the benchmark for determining college and career readiness in English language arts/literacy and mathematics…these rigorous standards articulate high expectations for students in these content areas…but given the sophisticated use of language required by the standards, these changes also entail a reconceptualization of the way English language learners (ELLs) “apprentice” into these demanding disciplinary practices1 by simultaneously acquiring and developing language as well as acquiring disciplinary knowledge and skills.

The English Language Proficiency Development (ELPD) Framework, hereafter referred to as the “Framework,” [the Common Core Standards for English Language Learners we talked about] envisions these not as separate and distinct activities, but as mutually enriching processes. Many states are on the cusp or have begun the process of developing or adapting their English Language Proficiency/English Language Development standards (referred to hereafter as ELP standards), and yet recognize the need to ensure their ELP standards will enable ELLs to meet the more rigorous academic content expectations now manifested in the CCSS and NGSS  (from CCSSO’s “Framework for English Language Proficiency Development Standards Corresponding to the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards”).

Do ELL students, or traditional students for that matter, stand a chance of success in the Common Core Standards? Should there be Common Core Standards for English Language Learners, or a framework of some type to provide extra help?