The preceding sections have summarized our review of the literature, presented profiles of eight exemplary schools, and drawn lessons from the in-depth fieldwork across these sites, as reported in Volume II (not available online). This section considers implications for policy and practice stemming from our findings.
The implications stem from the following context: Many schools with LEP students appear to follow practices that implicitly reflect lower expectations for LEP students in core subjects, in part deferring the teaching of challenging content until these students have mastered English. These schools tend to treat the education of LEP students as a remedial issue, assuming that LEP students must learn English before they can be expected to learn the standard curriculum designed for "mainstream" students. The exemplary schools examined in this study demonstrate that LEP students can learn challenging content in language arts, mathematics, and science, while becoming literate in English, and, further, that they can realize the high expectations for academic achievement and personal development expected of all other students. This conclusion has profound implications for policy at the federal, state, and local levels. It implies that many, perhaps most, schools with LEP students must re-examine their basic assumptions and practices in order to produce significant gains in the academic achievement of LEP students.
This section considers implications of this and other central study findings for federal, state, and local policies and practices.
Recent federal policy, as reflected in Goals 2000 and Improving America's Schools Act (IASA), shifts the federal role from a regulatory function to one of policy guidance and technical assistance. In light of the most recent Congressional debate on the federal role in education, there is considerable uncertainty about the funding available for Goals 2000, IASA, and other education initiatives. Nonetheless, whether funding comes in the form of block grants or in the manner originally prescribed in the two Acts, it is reasonable to assume that the regulatory role of the federal government will be significantly altered. In this new policy environment, it is particularly important for states and schools to look to the examples of the kind of exemplary schools studied here in order to introduce systemic change in school operations, student assessment, curriculum and instructional practices, professional development, and personnel policies that can enhance the learning of LEP and all students.
In Goals 2000 and Improving America's Schools Act, the federal government has delineated an approach to education reform that calls for comprehensive and systemic school change. We assume that the thrust of this approach will continue regardless of the outcome of the current Congressional debate. Our findings clearly show that the approach is on the right track and can benefit the education of LEP students. Goals 2000 and IASA require states to develop consolidated state plans for school reform. LEP students represent one of the target populations to be served by Title I of IASA and must be included in the state plans. The exemplary schools show that such students can learn to high academic content and performance standards, and that state plans should embody the new, and more accurate assumption that acquiring English and mastering high quality curriculum, are best done together. The technical assistance afforded in state plans should be directed toward helping teachers and school communities to develop--and adapt--successful instructional, curriculum and school reform strategies of the type used by the exemplary schools, as documented in Volume II of this series.
The new Title VII of IASA provides "Comprehensive School Grants" and "Systemwide Improvement Grants" to promote systemic change in schools and districts, respectively. The experience of the exemplary schools suggests that this direction could produce the breakthrough in dealing with LEP students that is so necessary. Our study found that a shared vision is the foundation upon which school reform rests. Consequently, districts and schools implementing these grants should begin with the notion of developing a schoolwide shared vision. The exemplary schools developed a shared vision that permeated the school culture and operations and that consisted of five dimensions--high expectations for all students; cultural validation of the diverse backgrounds of students and their parents; development of a community of learners including teachers, administrators, and parents; openness to external partners and research; and comprehensiveness of educational planning and programs for all students. These elements are illustrated in detail in Volume II. Specifically, in implementing Title I and Title VII grants, Goals 2000 and IDEA, local plans should include:
The exemplary sites used the students' native language for teaching content until the students were ready to transition to instruction in English. Much is now known about underlying principles of using primary language for both content instruction and more general language development. The use of sheltered English and content-based ESL in multiple-language situations or during periods of transition to content instruction in English are also better understood. These findings and advances in practice suggest a far-reaching implication: Teachers of LEP students should have the training and experience in language acquisition to assure that they can create and deliver the educational programs appropriate to the different developmental levels of their LEP students. The states could support this essential condition in a number of ways. They could require pre-service training to include knowledge of language development and active ways of promoting it in the classroom. Further, credentials for teachers who serve LEP students could include fluency in a second language.1 The states could shift toward renewable credentials and require teachers to update their knowledge as new information about language development and second language acquisition is gained. Further, given the importance of the use of native language for learning content and meeting high standards, states and schools should provide instructional materials in students native languages that are on a par with those in the English language curriculum.
Looking across the exemplary sites, a range of curriculum and instructional strategies were employed to engage limited-English-speaking students in learning in ways that the more traditional lecture or question-answer formats do not allow. For example, in cooperative learning settings, LEP students produced language in natural ways in order to interact with other students. Other instructional strategies such as hands-on science lessons were effective in engaging students in the curriculum. In terms of policy implications, pre-service teacher education should provide training in these effective practices, particularly so that new teachers can learn to create and work with heterogeneous groupings. The country's teacher colleges have a special responsibility to seek information about effective practices and make such empirical information part of their curriculum.
However, the skills required for teachers to learn the techniques of engaged learning for LEP students are beyond what most teachers receive in pre-service training. Teacher instructional leaders may be best able to provide staff development for other teachers in settings having linguistic and cultural diversity. The policy challenge at local and state levels is to identify such teacher leaders and employ them as part of a deliberate and long-run strategy for the training of other teachers. Districts with high proportions of LEP students might consider this strategy and make due allowances for incorporating it as a central element in their plans for professional development in response to the planning requirements of Goals 2000 and IASA. In any event, professional development should be seen as a continuing effort that should be largely teacher-driven, linked directly to the needs of students, and should contain all the essential components of effective staff development--acquisition of new knowledge and skills, demonstrations of effective strategies, coaching, and training in becoming inquirers and evaluators.
Another area of policy implications concerns school restructuring. School restructuring enabled the exemplary schools to design and adapt programs that best suited the needs of LEP--and all--students. The implications of this finding are significant because LEP students are often left on the margins of school restructuring efforts. To promote the inclusion of LEP students into school reform efforts, schools with a significant number of LEP students should include specific steps to:
Given the shift of the federal role away from a regulatory posture, districts will necessarily have to play an active role in assuring a full and appropriate education for LEP students. The district plan under Title I--which should be congruent with their Goals 2000 plan--can become an important policy instrument to strengthen the district role. The district plan should give a powerful message: the district is committed to assuring access to a high quality curriculum for all LEP students. In particular, these district plans should address: