The Impact of St. Lucie County School District’s Language Policy on the Teaching of English to Language Learners in the United States
In recent years, there has been an ongoing debate concerning the best methods for teaching English to language learners in the United States. This issue has come to the forefront due to the increasing number of English language learners (ELLs) in the U.S., which now stands at around 5 million students.
The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 requires all public schools to provide English Language Learners (ELLs) with access to a high-quality education. However, there is much debate about how this can be achieved, as there are a number of conflicting policy issues at play.
This paper will explore the teaching methods used in St. Lucie County School District, Florida, in order to identify any conflicting policy issues that may arise from these methods being adopted by other school districts across the United States. It will begin by providing an overview of St. Lucie County School District’s language policy. This will be followed by a discussion of the teaching methods used in St. Lucie schools, and how these conflict with policy issues for the teaching of English to language learners in other states. The paper will conclude with a summary of the findings and some recommendations for future research.
2. St. Lucie County School District’s Language Policy
The St. Lucie County School District is located on the east coast of Florida and includes the cities of Port St. Lucie, Fort Pierce, and Stuart. The district has a diverse student population, with over 50% of students being classified as ELLs. In order to meet the needs of this diverse population, the district has developed a Language Acquisition Plan (LAP).
The LAP provides guidance for district staff on how to support ELLs in acquiring English while also maintaining their native language and culture. It outlines three main goals for ELLs: communication, cultural competence, and academic success. In order to achieve these goals, the LAP recommends a variety of strategies and programs, including Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP), Dual Language Immersion, and Transitional Bilingual Education.
The SIOP model is based on research that shows that content-based instruction is more effective for ELLs than traditional ESL methods (Echevarria, Vogt & Short, 2008). It involves having content teachers team up with ESL specialists to co-teach lessons that are designed to meet the needs of both groups of students. The Dual Language Immersion program is designed for ELLs who are struggling academically or have limited English proficiency. In this program, ELLs are placed in classes with native English speakers and receive instruction in both English and their native language. Transitional Bilingual Education is designed for ELLs who are not yet proficient in English but are able to function at a basic level in daily life activities. In this program, ELLs receive instruction in both English and their native language until they reach a level of proficiency where they can transition into all-English classes.
3. Teaching Methods Used in St. Lucie Schools
The methods used to teach English vary depending on the age and level of proficiency of the students involved. For example, kindergarten and first grade students are taught using a combination of picture books, songs, rhymes, and games. Second and third grade students begin to learn more formal English through the use of textbooks and workbooks. Fourth and fifth grade students learn English through a combination of content-based instruction and ESL classes.
ESE classes are designed for students who need more support in acquiring English. These classes focus on developing students’ listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills. Students in ESE classes are also taught grammar and vocabulary. Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) lessons are used for content-based instruction. In these lessons, content teachers team up with ESL specialists to co-teach lessons that are designed to meet the needs of both groups of students.
4. Conflicting Policy Issues for the Teaching of English to Language Learners in other states
There are a number of policy issues that arise from the teaching methods used in St. Lucie County School District. The first issue is that of standardized testing. ELLs are required to take the same state-mandated standardized tests as their non-ELL peers. However, there is evidence to suggest that these tests are not always an accurate measure of ELLs’ academic progress ( Shepard, 2000).
This is because ELLs often have a limited vocabulary and may not be able to understand the questions on the test. As a result, they may score lower on the test than their non-ELL peers, even if they are making progress in their English language skills. This policy issue has led to calls for changes in the way that standardized tests are administered to ELLs.
The second policy issue relates to the government’s role in mandating how English should be taught in public schools. The U.S. Department of Education has issued guidance on how English should be taught to ELLs, but this guidance is not mandatory. As a result, there is considerable variation in the methods used by school districts across the country. This policy issue has led to calls for more consistent standards for the teaching of English to ELLs on a national level.
This paper has explored the teaching methods used in St. Lucie County School District, Florida, in order to identify any conflicting policy issues that may arise from these methods being adopted by other school districts across the United States. It has found that there are two main policy issues that arise from the teaching methods used in St. Lucie schools: standardized testing and the government’s role in mandating how English should be taught in public schools.