IMPROVING SCHOOLING FOR
A Research Agenda
Diane August and Kenji Hakuta, Editors
Committee on Developing a Research Agenda
on the Education of Limited-English-Proficient
and Bilingual Students
Board on Children, Youth, and Families
Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
National Research Council
Institute of Medicine
NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering , and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine.
Support for this project was provided by the U.S. Department of Education, as well as the Spencer Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Pew Charitable Trusts, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Andrew Mellon Foundat ion through a grant to Stanford University. The views expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect those of the sponsors.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on Developing a Research
Additional copies of this report are available from:
National Academy Press
2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20005
Call 800-624-6242 or 202-334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area). http://www.nap.edu
Copyright 1997 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America.
KENJI HAKUTA (Chair), School of Education, Stanford University
JAMES A. BANKS, Center for Multicultural Education, University of Washington, Seattle
DONNA CHRISTIAN, Center for Applied Linguistics, Washington, D.C.
RICHARD P. DURÁN, Graduate School of Education, University of California, Santa Barbara
CARL F. KAESTLE, School of Education, University of Chicago
DAVID KENNY, Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut
GAEA LEINHARDT, Learning Research and Development Center and Department of Education, University of Pittsburgh
ALBA ORTIZ, College of Education, University of Texas, Austin
LUCINDA PEASE-ALVAREZ, School of Ed ucation, University of California, Santa Cruz
CATHERINE SNOW, Graduate School of Education, Harvard University
DEBORAH STIPEK, Department of Education, University of California, Los Angeles
DIANE AUGUST, Study Director
CAROLE SPALDING, Senior Project Assistant
BOARD ON CHILDREN, YOUTH, AND FAMILIES
SHELDON H. WHITE (Chair), Department of Psychology, Harvard University
JACK P. SHONKOFF (Vice Chair), Heller Graduate School, Brandeis University
DAVID V.B. BRITT, Children's Television Workshop, New York City
LARRY BUMPASS, Center for Demography and Ecology, University of Wisconsin
FERNANDO A. GUERRA, San An tonio Metropolitan Health District, Texas
BERNARD GUYER, Department of Maternal and Child Health, Johns Hopkins University
ALETHA C. HUSTON, Department of Human Ecology, University of Texas, Austin
RENEE JENKINS, Department of Pediatrics and Chil d Health, Howard University Hospital
SARA MCLANAHAN, Office of Population Research, Princeton University
ROBERT MICHAEL, Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago
PAUL NEWACHECK, Institute of Health Policy Studies and Department of Pediatrics, University of California, San Francisco
MARTHA PHILLIPS, The Concord Coalition, Washington, D.C.
JULIUS B. RICHMOND, Department of Social Medicine, Harvard University Medical School
TIMOTHY M. SANDOS, TCI Central, Inc., Denver, Colorado
DEBORAH STIPEK, Graduate School of Education, University of California, Los Angeles
DIANA TAYLOR, Women's Health Program, Department of Family Health Care Nursing, University of California, San Francisco
GAIL WILENSKY, Project H ope, Bethesda, Maryland
EVAN CHARNEY (Liaison), Council, Institute of Medicine
RUTH T. GROSS (Liaison), Board on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Institute of Medicine
ELEANOR E. MACCOBY (Liaison), Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
DEBORAH A. PHILLIPS, Executive Director
ANNE BRIDGMAN, Program Officer for Communications
DRUSILLA BARNES, Administrative Associate
STACEY RELKIN, Project Assistant
Purpose of this Report
Charge to the Committee
Scope of the Report
Organization of This Report
2 BILINGUALISM AND SECOND-LANGUAGE LEARNING
State of Knowledge
3 COGNITIVE ASPECTS OF SCHOOL LEARNING: LITERACY DEVELOPMENT AND CONTENT LEARNING
State of Knowledge
4 THE SOCIAL CONTEXT OF SCHOOL LEARNING
State of Knowledge
5 STUDENT ASSESSMENT
State of Knowledge
Annex: Legislative Context for Standards and Assessment
6 PROGRAM EVALUATION
State of Knowledge
7 STUDIES OF SCHOOL AND CLASSROOM EFFECTIVENESS
State of Knowledge
Annex: Table 7-1, Studies of School and Classrooom Effectiveness
8 PREPARATION AND DEVELOPMENT OF TEACHERS SERVING ENGLISH-LANGUAGE LEARNERS
State of Knowledge
9 ESTIMATING POPULATION PARAMETERS
State of Knowledge
Research and Infrastructure Needs
Annex 1: National Surveys and Data Collection Efforts
Annex 2: Variables of Interest for Monitoring English-Language Learner Progress
10 ISSUES RELATED TO THE RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURE
Issues about Process
11 PRIORITIES FOR RESEARCH
Implementation of the Priorities
A THE INFRASTRUCTURE FOR RESEARCH ON ENGLISH-LANGUAGE LEARNERS AND BILINGUAL EDUCATION
Diane August and Carl Kaestle
B FEDERAL AND STATE INTERVIEWS
C FUNDED RESEARCH ACTIVITIES
D COMMITTEE SOURCES
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF COMMITTEE MEMBERS AND STAFF
OTHER REPORTS FROM THE BOARD ON CHLDREN, YOUTH AND FAMILIES
This report is the culmination of a process that began in September 1994 at a planning meeting to determine whether there was a sufficient knowledge base to inform the development of a research agenda on the education of English-language learners. Nine ex perts in language development, cognitive development, bilingual education, immigrant education, minority child development, education evaluation, and student demographics discussed existing research that has informed the education of English-language lear ners and bilingual students and identified knowledge gaps and promising directions for a possible study.
In response to the suggestions resulting from this meeting, a committee was established under the Board on Children, Youth, and Families of the Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (CBASSE) of the National Research Council (NRC) and the Institute for Medicine (IOM). Funding was provided by several offices within the U.S. Department of Education, the Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Languages Affairs, the Office of the Under Secretary, and the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Funding was also provided by the Spencer Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Pew Charitable Trusts, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Andrew Mellon Foundation (through a grant to Stanford Univers ity).
Although this is the first NRC study on developing a research agenda on the education of English-language learners and bilingual students, it builds on three earlier NRC studies related to this topic.
Assessing Evaluation Studies: The Case of Bilingual Education Strategies (National Academy Press, 1992) recommended improving evaluation studies in bilingual education, calling for a three-step process entailing exploratory or qualitative studies t o identify important program features; the development of competing theories, leading to sharply distinct proposals for programs; and the creation and assessment of these programs in tightly controlled comparative studies.
Cultural Diversity and Early Education: Summary of a Workshop (National Academy Press, 1994) considered the scope and the quality of research evidence on prekindergarten education of diverse populations of children. The report stresses an urgent n eed for more research on this population, as well as better coordination among agencies who fund this research. Some of the areas identified for future research include bilingual language instruction, effective educational practices, nonminority children as beneficiaries of cultural diversity, and the community context of multicultural education.
Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (National Academy Press, 1992) addressed the question of how federally sponsored education research might better contribute to improving education in the na tion and makes recommendations for legislation to reauthorize the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. It identifies a variety of obstacles, including the politicization of the research agenda; inadequate funding; lack of funding for investigat or-initiated research; and various internal problems, such as a weak advisory council and frequent turnover in top administrative positions. Many of the report's recommendations were incorporated in the Educational Research and Improvement Act of 1994.
The charge to this committee, based in large part on the findings from the planning meeting, was to review what is known about the linguistic, cognitive, and social processes involved in the education of English-language learners; identify issues that are worthy of more focused attention; examine the strengths and weaknesses of various research traditions in the field; and make recommendations regarding research priorities, the research infrastructure, human resource issues as they concern the supply and diversity of scientists and educational personnel who work in this area, and the use of scientific evidence to inform and improve policy and practice related to the education of English-language learners.
The committee began the task by dividing the research terrain into five categories: language, literacy, learning, and social processes; assessment and evaluation; school- and program-based studies of effective instruction; teacher education and profession al development; and national education statistics. Over the course of four meetings, a number of subgroup meetings, and numerous conference calls, the substantive issues in each of these areas were outlined and discussed, and the relevant literature was r eviewed. Review materials prepared by committee members and staff, as well as background papers prepared by others, guided the initial discussions and in some cases were incorporated into draft chapters and reports. In cases in which the committee felt il l-equipped to conduct a full-scale review, outside papers were commissioned (see below).
Infrastructure issues were addressed through a primary data collection effort, since published information in this area is not available. Study director Diane August, in consultation with committee member Carl Kaestle, gathered funding information from fe deral agencies and interviewed staff at these agencies, as well as staff in professional associations and directors of centers that conduct research on English-language learners. The results of their effort are presented in Appendix A.
At the beginning of the project the committee invited sponsors to share their goals for the project. We are grateful to Gilbert N. Garcia, from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, and Eugene Garcia, formerly director of the Office of Bilin gual Education and Minority Languages Affairs, for their thoughtful comments. We also thank Robert Siegler, Delia Pompa, and David Ramirez for participating on the committee at the beginning of the project.
The committee held one workshop and one open meeting. The workshop was designed to elicit advice from experts in educational research on language minority students and bolster the committee's knowledge base in certain areas, including social processes, ef fective schools and classrooms, and population estimates. The workshop participants prepared commissioned papers, which were discussed at the workshop. At the open meeting, advocates and representatives of professional organizations with a stake in biling ual education expressed their opinions and priorities. Several graduate students assisted with the project. They include Jennifer Merriman, who contributed to the section on subject matter learning in Chapter 3, and Joshua Rubin, who analyzed 1994 annual reports for foundations that fund substantial amounts of research for Appendix A and C. The committee is grateful to these presenters, consultants, readers, workshop participants, and technical reviewers for their contributions to our efforts; see Appendi x D.
A few consultants deserve special recognition for their substantial contributions to various chapters: Claude Goldenberg for his work on effective schools and classrooms (Chapter 7), Miriam Gonzalez for her work on teacher education (Chapter 8), and Anne Hafner for her contribution on estimating population parameters (Chapter 9), and Lana Muraskin for her analysis of research supported through state departments of education in states with at least 6 percent English-language learner populations.
The committee wishes to acknowledge the support and assistance of officials from the federal and state agencies (see Appendix B) who graciously allowed us to interview them and provided us with background materials for our study of the infrastructure of r esearch. Very special thanks are due to John Chapman from the U.S. Department of Education Budget Service for the many hours he spent helping us put together a table on Title VII funding for research over the last ten years.
The committee also benefited from the support of the staff of the Board on Children, Youth, and Families: Deborah Phillips's commitment to culturally diverse students made this project possible; Rosemary Chalk provided ongoing advice and encouragement; an d Niani Sutardjo helped prepare the bibliography. Communications director Anne Bridgman was particularly helpful in the final stages of preparing the report and planning its dissemination. Special thanks are due to Carole Spalding, the project assistant, who provided the panel with excellent support in organizing the panel meetings, preparing agenda materials, and guiding the report from the first drafts to the published volume. We also thank editor Rona Briere, whose efforts contributed significantly to the presentation of the panel's views.
Most of all, thanks and acknowledgment of extraordinary effort are due to the members of the committee and our study director. In addition to participating in meetings and numerous conference calls and reading and reviewing hundreds of pages of studies an d background materials, several members and staff took responsibility for the initial drafts of the chapters of this report. I thank Catherine Snow and Gaea Leinhardt for their work on Chapter 3; Lucinda Pease Alvarez, James Banks, and Catherine Snow for their work on Chapter 4; Richard Duran for his work on Chapter 5; David Kenny for his work on Chapter 6; Diane August and Donna Christian for their work on Chapter 7; and Alba Ortiz for her work on Chapter 8. Our work also benefited from the participation of Deborah Stipek, who served as a liaison between the committee and the Board on Children, Youth, and Families. Her expertise in education also contributed significantly to this report.
Kenji Hakuta, Chair
Committee on Developing a Research
Agenda on the Education of Limited-English-
Proficient and Bilingual Students
OVERVIEWAmerican education has focused primarily on the needs of native English-speaking children. However, a large and growing number of students in U.S. schools come from homes where the language background is other than English, and are considered to be limited-English-proficient (LEP). These students are overwhelmingly from families with low incomes and lower levels of formal education. Thirty years ago these students were expected to "sink or swim" in a school environment that did not pay particular attention to their linguistic background. Since the 1970s, a variety of educational approaches to meeting the needs of English-language learners have been tried.1 These approaches are designed to help these students develop proficiency in English, as well as learn the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that make up the curriculum. Impetus for these programs has come from a number of sources: Congress, the courts, state legislatures, departments of education, and various professional and advocacy groups. At first, these programs were not based on research, but relied on professional intuitions, political voices, and a moral conviction that something had to be done to reverse the pattern of poor academic outcomes for these students. What little research existed focused on middle-and upper-middle-class Cuban exiles, populations of a different cultural background and generally of higher socioeconomic status than the typical English-language learner. Beginning in the early 1970s and continuing to the present, a research base on English-language learner issues has been built in response to a number of circumstances. Major developments in basic research, especially in the areas of language and cognitive development, followed on the heels of the cognitive revolution of the 1960s and stimulated such research on English-language learners. The political controversy over bilingual education (i.e., use of the native language in instruction) led to a line of research aimed at evaluating the comparative effectiveness of bilingual education and other approaches using only English. Moreover, general concern with educational effectiveness led to research on English-monolingual populations aimed at identifying characteristics of schools that proved effective with respect to student outcomes, and this in turn stimulated parallel work to identify characteristics of effective programs for English-language learners. Efforts have also been made to incorporate English-language learners into large national surveys, such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress. These and other developments have resulted in a rich portfolio of research on English-language learners, ranging from basic processes to program evaluation and from program characteristics research to the collection of national statistics. Almost 30 years after congressional passage of the Bilingual Education Act as Title VII of the Hawkins-Stafford Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we are now in a position to take stock of what we know and to consider ways of improving our knowledge building in this area. This task is of critical importance given the demographics of the school-age population. There has been an increase of almost 1 million English-language learners in U.S. public schools (grades K-12) in the last 10 years. As a consequence, these students make up approximately 5.5 percent of the public school student population. They are dispersed across the country, with about 6 percent of school districts serving student populations that are at least 40 percent English-language learners (Fleischman and Hopstock, 1993). Yet while the numbers of these students are increasing, their educational attainment remains low. For example, a recent Congressionally mandated study indicates that English-language learners receive lower grades, are judged by their teachers to have lower academic abilities, and score below their classmates on standardized tests of reading and math (Moss and Puma, 1995).
In this context, the Committee on Developing a Research Agenda on the Education of Limited-English-Proficient and Bilingual Students was formed and given the following charge:
REVIEW OF SUBSTANTIVE AREAS
The committee reviewed research in a broad range of substantive areas, with a focus on how best to meet the academic and social needs of English-language learners. This report focuses on the following areas:
The committee concluded that knowledge useful to the successful education of English-language learners has accumulated differentially across these areas. Some topics, such as second-language acquisition and discourse patterns in bilingual settings, have been characterized by a cumulative progression of theories and data. The challenge in these areas, then, is to extend the research to new languages, to new aspects of language, and to new subpopulations of research subjects.
Other topics, such as the learning of academic content areas, have seen important developments in the mainstream research literature, but these insights have not been extended to language-minority populations. Others, such as program evaluation and effective schools, have seen significant activity, but a serious redirection of current efforts is warranted. Still others are plainly important, yet a major effort to address the fundamental issues for English-language learners has yet to be mounted; these topics include second-language literacy, intergroup relations, and the social context of learning. Finally, in the area of education statistics--an important tool in monitoring student and program characteristics, as well as educational outcomes for all students--progress in gathering systematic data on English-language learners and including these students in overall population estimates is seen as a major challenge for the immediate future.
These pockets of knowledge, once developed, could be combined to provide an elaborate, formal model of research and development. This is an ideal yet to be realized, but one that the committee sees as having great potential. We envision a model of instruction that is grounded in basic knowledge about the linguistic, cognitive, and social development of language-minority children. This model would be rich enough to suggest different programs for different types of students. It would take time to formulate such a model, and the participation of researchers from very different backgrounds would be required. Yet this model could serve as the basis for designing programs that would result in better outcomes for these students.
The envisioned model would be implemented in a small number of settings that would be carefully selected on the basis of student and school site characteristics. Throughout implementation, the process would be observed and described, and the implementation would be reworked. Once successful implementation had been demonstrated, the programs would be formally evaluated for outcomes. Some of these outcomes might include new and unexpected variables identified in the course of observing the implementation. The evaluation results would be used to confirm predictions of the general model. In addition, because the background characteristics of these programs could be related to the distribution of those characteristics nationally, hypotheses could be generated about the generalizability of the findings to new sites with similar and different characteristics. At this point, the programs could be disseminated as promising, and experimentation in other local sites encouraged. Once the model had been validated acro ss a wide range of settings, the theory applied in creating effective programs could be used to guide professional development for teachers and other educators.
Such a picture linking theory and practice through empirical knowledge should be the long-term vision for a research agenda in the education of English-language learners.
REVIEW OF THE INFRASTRUCTURE THAT
SUPPORTS THE RESEARCH
In addition to our work in the above substantive areas, the committee investigated issues surrounding the infrastructure for research in this field. Our primary focus was on federal agencies, especially those in the Department of Education, but we also considered research by states and private foundations. Primary data for the analysis were interviews with key personnel and some award recipients and the background information they provided. At the federal level, questions related to the following topics guided the analysis: the organization and administration of the office, unit, or division; research related to the education of English-language learners that is funded; support for centers, laboratories, or other entities that conduct research on English--language learners; support for information services or resource centers that focus, at least in part, on these students; development of the research agenda; procedures that govern procurement, monitoring, accumulation of results, collaboration, dissemination, and linkages to policy and practice; obstacles to the sponsorship of research; promising efforts; and mechanisms to support the training of education researchers. A slightly abbreviated protocol was used with states. To generate information on foundation activity, we examined annual reports from 1994 and followed up this review with queries to all foundations included in this report.
Our infrastructure study revealed a number of serious obstacles to the development of an optimum research base in this field. A major factor has been the vulnerability of the agenda-setting process to external politics, as well as bureaucratic turf battles among various offices within the Department of Education. The Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Languages Affairs (OBEMLA), through its limited budget, has been the predominant voice for studies specific to English-language learners, as well as for the inclusion of these students in studies purporting to survey all students. However, OBEMLA's capacity to manage research has a mixed record. In addition, there has been a lack of staff capacity and interest among the other research offices and agencies for addressing the concerns of English-language learners. Thus, efforts at coordination and collaboration across offices have been extremely difficult to achieve, even though these students should be the concern of all offices that fund research in education. Other factors the committee identified as needing strengthening include the peer review process used to fund proposals; the processes available for monitoring research, accumulating knowledge, and developing consensus in given areas; and mechanisms for the dissemination of research results.
In considering overall priorities for research, the committee applied four principles. These principles and the research priorities associated with each are summarized below.
Principle 1: Priority should be given to important topics to which insufficient attention has been paid, but for which there already exist promising theories and research methodologies so that sound research can be conducted in the immediate future.
Under this principle, the highest priorities are the topics of content area learning, second-language English literacy, intergroup relations, and the social context of learning:
In second-language literacy, our review noted deep paradigmatic divisions, but identified important questions that are within the reach of research, such as the necessary basis for the development of second-language literacy and the optimal literacy instruction given the students' background.
Under this principle, we identified specific questions that apply to hitherto understudied groups of students:
Under this principle, we identified a number of questions that would be of concern to Congress, the administration, and state and local education administrators; the public and the media; advocates for equity; advocates for specific programs; foreign-language advocates; and teachers. The major areas of concern common to these groups are
program evaluation and accountability,
Principal 4: Priority should be given to endeavors that would build the nation's capacity to conduct high-quality research on English-language learners and programs designed to serve their needs.
Under this principle, we identified areas of research in the cognitive sciences and approaches that would combine interpretive analysis and traditional positivistic paradigms, thus offering the potential to lure new researchers into the field. In addition, we identified the following areas as particularly promising ways of building cross-institutional bridges while also addressing vital issues: early childhood education and development, characteristics of effective practice, assessment, program evaluation, and teacher education and professional development. In the conduct of such research it is important to take contextual factors--such as the socioeconomic status of children's families and their ethnic background-- into consideration.
Building the nation's infrastructure for research on the education of English-language learners requires more than promoting interesting and methodologically mixed research. As a result of our review of the federal, state, and foundation research infrastructure, the committee developed a number of recommendations for implementing our vision for the systematic development of research and practice in the education of English-language learners.
As this report shows, considerable knowledge about educating English-language learners and bilingual students has already accrued, and there are ways of strengthening and building upon this knowledge. Given the demographics of the school-age population, it is critical that we take stock of what we know and make recommendations for the next generation of research. It can be hoped that the paths to that end delineated by the committee can be followed with maximum intensity and minimum distraction through a strategic combination of theory, research, program development, evaluation, and monitoring.
Fleischman, H.L., and P.J. Hopstock
Moss, M., and M. Puma
1Throughout this report, the committee has elected wherever possible to use the term "English- language learners" (proposed by Rivera ) rather than the term "LEP students." The committee beli eves that the former is a positive term, whereas the latter assigns a negative label. Moreover, we have chosen to forgo the editorially convenient practice of reducing English-language learners to an acronym.