Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Effective Reading Programs for Spanish-Dominant English Language Learners (ELLs) in the Elementary Grades

This review synthesizes research on English reading outcomes of all types of programs for Spanish-dominant English language learners (ELLs) in elementary schools. It is divided into two major sections.

One focuses on studies of language of instruction and one on reading approaches for ELLs holding constant language of instruction. A total of 13 qualifying studies met the inclusion criteria for language of instruction. Though the overall findings indicate a positive effect (effect size = .21) in favor of bilingual education, the largest and longest term evaluations, including the only multiyear randomized evaluation of transitional bilingual education, did not find any differences in outcomes by the end of elementary school for children who were either taught in Spanish and transitioned to English or taught only in English.

The review also identified whole-school and whole-class interventions with good evidence of effectiveness for ELLs, including Success for All, cooperative learning, Direct Instruction, and ELLA. Programs that use phonetic small group or one-to-one tutoring have also shown positive effects for struggling ELL readers.

What is in common across the most promising interventions is their use of extensive professional development, coaching, and cooperative learning. The findings support a conclusion increasingly being made by researchers and policymakers concerned with optimal outcomes for ELLs and other language minority students: Quality of instruction is more important than language of instruction.

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