Improving Math Curriculum for English Language Learners - Edutopia Guest Post

January 20, 2020

Rachel, a passionate leader in a New York City–based public school, was concerned about the math outcomes at her school, especially for English language learners (ELLs), who made up about a third of the school community. Rachel knew that the students at her school had tremendous learning potential and that their teachers were motivated. The students had improved in English language arts, but mathematics scores had remained stagnant, particularly for ELLs.  

Several math teachers said that the school’s adopted curriculum didn’t support the kind of instruction required for ELLs and they were creating supplemental resources, but the resulting units lacked cohesion.  

Research points to the role of carefully designed, high-quality learning materials. High-challenge, high-support materials allow great teachers to engage students in quality interactions that scaffold and motivate students. Creating a curriculum inquiry team is a way to leverage the knowledge and expertise of educators from different disciplines to establish a more inclusive, engaging, and effective curriculum.

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Renae Skarin is the Director of Curriculum Review Process where she works with leading educational experts to design and implement a process for reviewing and providing feedback to curriculum developers on the strength of supports for ELs. Prior to joining the ELSF, she worked at Understanding Language, Stanford University, where she was a researcher, professional developer, curriculum developer, and project manager for projects specializing in issues of equity and accessibility for diverse learners and has a strong background in second language teaching and teacher education both in the U.S. and abroad. Renae received a B.A. in English, Literacy Studies from California State University, Long Beach and an M.A. in Second Language Studies at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. She is currently completing her doctoral dissertation in Educational Linguistics at Stanford University. Renae lives at home with her 15-year-old activist daughter, Kailani and her sweet dog Stella.

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