One of the most common challenges in our work is the ways in which the education system categorizes and “others” English Learners. We’ve seen time and time again that ELs aren’t taken into consideration when instructional materials and curricula are being developed. This is especially true when it comes to core instruction, such as mathematics. This approach is harmful. It doesn’t set our teachers up for success. It doesn’t set our students up for success.
That’s why we were so excited to see the Gates Foundation not only put out the call for interventions to support Black, Latinx, and low socioeconomic status students with skills and content learning around the all important Algebra 1, but also to do so with a specific focus on ELs. After the notice went out about this effort, ELSF was honored to be invited to join several partners with their proposals. We were thrilled when two of the proposals that we were a part of were selected to move forward with phase 1 of this effort.
Since March 2021 we’ve been working with Amplify and with the Rhode Island Department of Education to support their efforts to create innovative, new math materials that help ensure all students are given the tools they need to succeed in Algebra 1. ELSF has been providing advisory support to these grantees to ensure that the needs of ELs remain front and center in their curriculum and materials designs. We’re committed to ensuring that the materials have an asset-based approach in their framing that reflect the cultures of the students they’re trying to target.
While we’re still in the beginning stages of this work, we’ve already seen some promising trends:
The program proposals that we’ve worked with Amplify and the Rhode Island Department of Education to design and strengthen are only the first step. Next comes the long and hard work of building out these programs, implementing them, measuring progress, and taking that data to refine and continue learning what works so we can provide the best learning opportunities for students.
But, we’re heartened by what these grants demonstrate - a shift in thinking around how materials should be developed with equity at the forefront. And an understanding that we must be willing to innovate if we want to change outcomes for ELs and other students who traditionally haven’t been served well by the curricula being used by our teachers.
Materials drive instruction. They are the fundamental building block upon which teachers teach and students learn. Ensuring that materials are innovative, strategic, and, most importantly, equity centered, is essential for the future success of not only ELs, but the success of all students.