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Stanford launches effort to improve English Language Learner access to Common Core State Standards

August 15, 2011
School of Education News
Initiative will seed national effort to map out and meet the growing academic and language needs of ELL students.

CONTACT:  Martha Castellon, Executive Director, Stanford University Program in English Language Learner Education, (650) 248-1177,

COMMENT:  Kenji Hakuta, Lee L. Jacks Professor of Education, Stanford University School of Education, (650) 723-5620,

Prof. Kenji Hakuta


STANFORD – Stanford University researchers today announced the launch of a national initiative to help English Language Learners (ELLs) meet the Common Core State Standards in language arts and mathematics, as well as the emerging frameworks in science education. The Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are jointly funding the effort with a $2 million grant.  

The Stanford-led initiative will seed a national effort to map out and meet the growing academic language and content needs of ELLs as Common Core academic standards are implemented by schools and districts around the nation.  

“The Common Core and the National Academy framework for K-12 science are going to demand high levels of language from students and teachers alike,” said Principal Investigator Kenji Hakuta, co-chair of the national effort. “We owe all students, but especially English language learners, an instructional system that is tightly attuned to the language necessary to succeed in learning. Our current education tends to obscure the role of language, and our project will make the language that kids need to succeed academically much more visible so that it helps guide what goes on in the classroom.”

“Given the shift in America’s demographics, the impact of this work could be enormous,” said Andrés Henríquez, a program officer at the Carnegie Corporation. He pointed to the latest figures from the 2010 U.S. Census that show Hispanics as the fastest-growing population in the U.S., as well as estimates from the U.S. Department of Education that identify 37% of fourth-graders and 21% of eighth-graders as English language learners.

“Considering this growing population of English language learners and the forthcoming implementation of the Common Core in 46 states, we must ensure all students are gaining access to excellent content,” said Henríquez.

“States have taken an important first step by agreeing to adopt the Common Core standards,” said Melissa Chabran, senior program officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We are proud to join with Carnegie Corporation and Stanford in taking the next step to ensure that all students – especially ELL students – have the resources and support they need to meet the high standards.”

To foster awareness and a national dialogue among key actors in standards-based education reform about the need to leverage common core standards for English language proficiency development, the initiative will sponsor meetings, webinars, and commissioned papers on key topics. Partners will include local, state, and federal educational agencies; experts in Common-Core State Standards in English language arts and mathematics; developers of the next-generation science standards; and developers of new English language proficiency standards, as well as advocacy groups, publishers, and test makers.

Organizers will also collaborate with local school districts and their teachers to create clear specifications and exemplars of how teachers can foster English language proficiency as part of subject matter instruction, above and beyond any English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction that English language learners might already receive. This work will be widely shared and is expected to help shape how the new Common Core standards are used by educators to develop English language proficiency of their students.

Hakuta, a long-time expert on ELLs and the Lee L. Jacks Professor of Education at Stanford, co-chairs the national initiative with Maria Santos, Deputy Superintendent at Oakland Unified School District and former director of programs for ELLs for the New York City school system. In addition, several experts are part of the core group carrying out the project, including: Helen Quinn, professor emerita at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford and the chair of the National Academy of Sciences report on the K-12 science standards; Susan Pimentel, the lead writer for the common-core standards for English/language arts and literacy; Phil Daro, the lead writer for the common-core mathematics standards; Okhee Lee, an expert on science education, language and culture, and teacher education at New York University; Judit Moschkovich, an expert on ELLs and mathematics, and George C. Bunch, an expert on ELLs and academic language, both from the University of California at Santa Cruz. Additionally, Aída Walqui, director of professional development at WestEd, and Lydia Stack, an ESL expert long and formerly with San Francisco Unified School District, will act as initiative facilitators; Stanford Education Professor Guadalupe Valdés will serve as senior language expert; and WestEd’s Robert Linquanti, an ELL researcher, will serve as senior advisor to the initiative.


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