Practical Steps to Supporting English Learners in ELA and Math Classrooms - UnboundEd Guest Post

Classrooms today are likely to have at least one English learner (EL) student. How do we ensure they are learning the same content as other students? How do we ensure that they are achieving to their full potential? This doesn’t get addressed with “just good teaching” but, instead, requires intentional actions and dedicated conviction to adapt curriculum, policies, and practices that move ELs toward college and career readiness.

Reflecting on our early teaching years, we sometimes think, “Wow, if we had known then what we know now.”  With only best intentions, educators often simplified, cut, and redesigned the ELA and math curricula presented to ELs until it was almost unrecognizable in comparison to that which their native English-speaking peers experienced. While it sounds outrageous, these reductive strategies were implemented to protect the perceived vulnerability of ELs from tasks that we thought were too difficult. Now we know this is a huge disservice to ELs, and we must maintain high expectations and must engage ELs in the same grade-level content as their non-EL peers.

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Laura Austin is Title III Director for the Carson City School District English Learner Program where her work focuses on the development and implementation of curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices that support EL academic achievement. Her passion for EL education includes the design of teacher-centered staff development that enables teachers of ELs to create an inclusive learning community and build an authentic home-school connection.  Her teaching experience includes K-12 EL teacher and classroom teacher in a bilingual (Spanish)/bicultural setting.  She has served as Principal of a PreK – 5 Title I school.  Laura received a B.A. in English from Mills College and holds a M.Ed. and Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from the University of Nevada Reno. She was born and raised in Los Angeles, California and lives in Minden, Nevada. The perfect day for her is hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountains near her home to catch a sweeping view of Lake Tahoe.

Crystal Gonzales is the Executive Director of the ELSF where she collaborates with national experts, organizations, educators and content developers to increase the supply of quality of K-12 instructional materials that meet the needs of the growing EL population. Previously, as a program officer at the Helmsley Charitable Trust, she collaborated with national K-12 organizations with a focus on teacher professional development, quality instructional materials, and advocacy for underserved communities. In this role, she worked with EL experts to elevate the needs of ELs among grantees and her grantmaking peers. Crystal began her career as a 4th grade bilingual teacher in Houston ISD. She is currently a member of Education Leaders of Color, Latinos for Education, and is a Pahara NextGen fellow. Crystal holds a master’s in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago and a B.A. from the University of New Mexico. She is a proud native New Mexican and currently resides in NYC.


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