Learning English isn’t Enough

Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice

By  Dr. Timothy Boals , WIDA Executive Director, Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER), University of Wisconsin-Madison

Originally published for WCER on December 2, 2013.  The original post is here. 

For years we’ve heard the debate about whether teachers should use bilingual or English-only instruction when teaching English Language Learners (ELLs). This debate overlooks a more important issue: How can educators ensure ELLs’ overall academic success—not merely their acquisition of basic English?

The argument about educating ELLs is often more political than pedagogical. Framing the issue in terms of which approach is best for “learning English” has misled educators and the public. Learning English is simply not enough when the majority of students are also learning math, science, social studies, the regular English language arts curriculum, and many other subjects.

Policy makers and the public remain largely unconvinced of the role of the student’s native language and the need…

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