How Do English Language Learners Learn to Read?
Robert E. Slavin and Alan Cheung
Research suggests that bilingual programs do not harm and usually improve the English reading performance of English language learners.
English language learners—students who come from homes in which a language other than English is spoken—are one of the fastest-growing student populations in U.S. schools. At the same time, the debate over the best way to help English language learners succeed in school has become increasingly heated and political: Some states have abolished or sharply limited native language instruction, whereas others continue it. Today, the stakes are higher than ever. Because many federal and state policies now mandate that schools demonstrate adequate yearly progress of every student subgroup, schools with large English language learner populations face serious consequences unless these students succeed.
The controversy over optimal education for English language learners has focused on beginning reading instruction in particular. Should schools teach English language learners to read in their native language first and then in English, or should English language learners be taught to read in English from the outset with appropriate supports? Whatever the language of instruction, which instructional strategies are most effective? To answer these questions, we must examine the research on beginning reading instruction for English language learners.
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