Understanding Language aims to heighten educator awareness of the critical role that language plays in the new Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards. The long-term goal of the initiative is to increase recognition that learning the language of each academic discipline is essential to learning content. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information; articulating and building on ideas; constructing explanations; engaging in argument from evidence—such language-rich performance expectations permeate the new Standards.
We seek to improve education for all students—especially English Language Learners. To that end, we are synthesizing knowledge and developing resources that help ensure teachers can meet their students' evolving linguistic needs as the new Standards are implemented. We are bringing together leading thinkers, researchers, practitioners, and policy makers in the fields of language, learning, and the subject areas to explore and promote pragmatic approaches to addressing these issues systematically.
We recently issued a set of commissioned papers focusing on the shifts, challenges, and opportunities found in the new Standards. These papers offer strategic analyses of the language demands and opportunities contained in the new Standards. They also offer guidance on implementation in areas such as assessment and teacher professional development.
Moving forward, we aim to demonstrate ways in which students' English language proficiency and disciplinary knowledge can be developed simultaneously in the context of content instruction. We will engage educators in developing resources around the new Standards, offer both model lessons and examples of instruction, and foster online learning communities where knowledge can be shared and advanced.
We aim to spotlight the role of language in valid and appropriate assessments, and we plan to work with groups of schools and school districts to foster collaboration and build capacity. Finally, throughout each phase of the work, we will take steps to communicate our message systemically in order to create better supports for ELLs and the teachers of ELLs at the federal, state, and local levels.