Up to now, California schools have placed a greater emphasis on teaching the state’s 1.5 million English learners the parts of a sentence rather than the meaning of a sentence. That focus on syntax over significance is in for a massive overhaul if, as expected, the State Board of Education votes tomorrow to approve new English Language Development standards aligned to Common Core state standards in reading and writing.
“The old standards are very much geared toward vocabulary and grammar,” said Kenji Hakuta, a Stanford University Education Professor and head of a $2 million English Language Learner Initiative funded by the Gates Foundation and Carnegie Corporation. “This doesn’t ignore them [English learners], it takes a different approach. What you get is a different flavor in terms of how language is used in the classroom to exchange ideas and negotiate meaning.”