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Reading / English Language Learners (2012 Report)

Key Findings

The effect of language of instruction on achievement

To evaluate the effect of language of instruction, researchers reviewed studies of bilingual education that had been completed between 1970 and 2011. The studies had to meet a set of rigorous research standards to be considered for the final analysis. For example, studies had to use randomized or matched control groups, have a duration of at least one school year, and use quantitative measures of English reading performance, such as standardized tests. A total of 14 studies, involving approximately 2,000 elementary school children, met these criteria and are included in the report.

Overall, findings from the studies indicated a positive but modest effect in favor of bilingual education. However, the largest and longest-term evaluations, including the only multi-year randomized evaluation of transitional bilingual education, did not find any differences in outcomes by the end of elementary school between children who were taught in Spanish and transitioned to English and children who were taught only in English. This leads the researchers to suggest that quality of instruction is more important than language of instruction.

Effective reading approaches for ELLs other than the use of native language

For their analysis of reading approaches for ELLs other than bilingual education, the researchers reviewed studies that met similar standards to those required for the language of instruction analysis. They looked at whole-school and whole-class interventions and small-group and one-to-one supplemental interventions. Positive effects were found for programs that used phonetic small-group or one-to-one tutoring, cooperative learning, extensive professional development, and coaching.




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