92.  My superintendent and I are working on a presentation to our school board trying to hire additional personnel to work with our LEP students. I need the graph that you showed us at the Migrant/ESL Academy in September that showed that after 4th grade the LEP students tend to go slowly downward while Native English Speakers tend to go slowly upward. Where can I access this information quickly since our board meeting is Monday next?

 

(1) The first source of information provides the statistical evidence that, for ALL students, there is a decline --more or less severe-- in their reading scores at the fourth grade. This is a statistical phenomenon that appears in ALL longitudinal data on the same students. This fourth grade "slump" in reading scores is probably evident in your own district, using longitudinal information from your own students.

The basic reason for this decline is that standardized tests BEFORE the fourth grade tend to focus on "reading skills," like phonics rules, matching discrete sounds to symbols, etc. These skills are easy to learn, easy to measure through standardized tests. Thus, ALL students --at different rates of growth-- appear to be "learning." And, indeed, they are learning discrete skills, not learning to "read." So, in your very own district you may find the statistical support that you need. You may also find that support just about everywhere.

Now, AT the fourth grade, students are tested on reading comprehension, NOT on discrete reading skills. "LEARNING FROM READING" becomes the important focus of testing. Because there has been less emphasis on:

  1. vocabulary development and on
  2. reading comprehension as a result of vocabulary development,

ALL students tend to decline or NOT-DO-AS-WELL as they were performing before fourth grade. In your own district they may have the statistical evidence you need to show this DECLINE, this SLUMP or decrease in reading scores at the fourth grade for ALL students. "ALL students" include the English-only students who benefit from the fact that they may develop and build vocabulary at home, with the help and the opportunities that English-only parents afford to their English-only children.

In general, your LEP students in the early grades (K-third grade) also learn to "read" in English: They master --not as well-- the sound-symbol correlations, the phonic rules, the discrete skills for "reading" in English. HOWEVER,

  1. Vocabulary development and
  2. reading comprehension based on vocabulary building,

are not the focus of instruction in the early grades. Nor is

  1. vocabulary building or
  2. English reading comprehension resulting from vocabulary development,

possible through the home: Non-English speaking parents cannot help their children build English vocabulary. (These non-English speaking parents could --and should-- help develop in their children LOTS of vocabulary in their own native language, but the parents themselves may lack this vocabulary.)

Thus, at the fourth grade, when LEARNING THROUGH READING becomes crucial to academic success, English Learners (or LEP students) continue to fail. They continue to decline in reading performance, especially if the school system FAILS to provide the kind of program, and the kind of WELL-TRAINED teachers, who can help these students succeed academically.

That is what the Thomas-Collier research shows and CONTINUES to show as they add more and more data each year. And that is your second source of information.

(2) In your second source of information, Thomas/Collier have studied thousands of longitudinal records for English Learners K-12 grades. They observe the same "growth" in the early grades, K-3rd grade. Then at the fourth grade, here comes the SLUMP, which, depending on the type of program the students are in, continues until the students drop out or FAIL.

The graph also shows how English Learners almost never make it to the 50th percentile. Only in certain kinds of programs English Learners succeed to reach the 50th percentile or surpass the 50th percentile. These are the kinds of programs we need to begin implementing in our schools.

The fourth-grade SLUMP is one of the least understood phenomena in reading research. In fact, I strongly believe --and current test results from California and elsewhere tend to confirm, that the current emphasis on "Reading by age 9" may be harming students instead of helping them.

Under current pressure to get students to "Read by age 9," this emphasis in developing the discrete reading skills for "decoding" words begins in Pre-K or Kinder when, cognitively, students are NOT ready to learn such abstract concepts. Of course, non- and limited-English proficient students are even LESS ready for learning and mastering such abstract concepts: They cannot even "hear" the sounds of English correctly!!!!!. In addition, non- and limited-English proficient students do NOT understand (listening) nor speak English, the language through which such instruction in "decoding" skills is provided!!!

The extremely SAD results of such emphasis on discrete reading skills is the labeling of these young students as FAILURES, in many cases forcing these children to be retained in Kindergarten!!!!! Current reading scores for English Learners and for African American students (who may be speakers of a "dialect" of English, usually a non-standard dialect of English) continue to be much lower than for white students.

I very strongly believe that emphasizing ORAL LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT, building very strong ORAL LANGUAGE SKILLS in which students in the early grades learn to:

(1) visually recognize,

and (2) actively manipulate through hands-on instructional activities,

while (3) mastering listening and speaking skills that

include (4) the vocabulary of the CONCEPTS of the content areas in successive grades, while developing

the (5) READING COMPREHENSION skills that help them listen to and fully understand the concepts and the content area language,

is the BEST method of insuring reading and academic success at the fourth grade and BEYOND. In the early grades,

learning to perceive content area concepts,

listening with understanding the language that talks about content area concepts,

actively manipulating such concepts through concrete educational experiences,

speaking and mastering the oral language relating to content area concepts, and

listening with understanding to readings about content area concepts,

are crucial skills that ALL students can easily acquire.

Thus, ALL students will succeed, ALL students will have very positive educational experiences that help them continue to learn, continue to want to learn before, during and BEYOND the fourth grade.

I strongly believe in these ideas as the result in my involvement as Advisor in the TEN SCHOOLS' PROGRAM in the Los Angeles Unified School District, and because theories of language acquisition and development seem to strongly support these ideas. For non- and limited-English learners, RESEARCH strongly support these ideas: Research has consistently shown that non-English speakers with a very STRONG primary language background, master English faster and succeed academically in greater numbers. These students bring to the English teaching-and-learning situation a very strong ORAL LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT and solid CONCEPT development in their own language.

 


For more in-depth information, classroom demonstrations, and "coaching" of new and/or experienced teachers, Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK offers:

1. Cognitive - Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
2. Cross Cultural Diversity - Multicultural Strategies
3. Effective Instruction for English Learners (L.E.P. students) Parts 1, 2, 3, 4
4. Promoting Academic Success in Language Minority Students
5. Cognitive - Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
6. Oral Language / Literacy Skills / Higher Order Thinking Skills
7. 50/50 Dual Language Programs: design, planning and implementation
8. The Structure of English / The Structure of Spanish
9. Transition: Introduction to English Reading

Web Site Programs for Teachers: Numbers 1, 5, 7, 8, and 9.
Web Site Programs for
Paraprofessionals: Number 3.
Web Site Programs for
New Teachers:
Enhanced Cultural Sensitivity - The Challenge of Students Diversity
Identifying / Responding to Students' Language Needs
Phonemic Awareness: Teaching English phonics to L.E.P. students
Relationship Between Reading, Writing and Spelling
Improving Reading Performance -- Building Oral Language Skills)

Write and e-mail any additional questions you may have, and Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK will establish with you, your school or district a Technical Assistance Service Contract. Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK will answer all your questions promptly and to your satisfaction.

 

For information and credentials please click on the link below or contact directly:

CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK, Ph.D.

Educational Consultant, Program Evaluator

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Certification (12/2006)

3113 Malcolm Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90034-3406

Phone and Fax: (310) 474-5605

E-mail:  csssadek@gte.net