These papers, presented at the Understanding Language Conference in January 2012, address language and literacy issues found in the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards. A summary of the conference is provided below.

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Margaret Heritage: Formative Assessment and Common Core

Instruction for Diverse Groups of ELLs

Aída Walqui and Margaret Heritage

The population of English language learners is enormously diverse. Teachers face the complex challenge of providing them with opportunities that allow them to attain the Common Core State Standards despite their various needs and abilities. 

Alison Bailey & Mikyung Wolf on Common Core and Assessments

The Challenge of Assessing Language Proficiency Aligned to the Common Core State Standards and Some Possible Solutions

Alison Bailey and Mikyung Kim Wolf

The authors discuss the challenges of assessing English Language Proficiency (ELP) in ways that are aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and then make recommendations for developers of the next generation ELP assessments.

Delia Pompa

Critical Policy Levers for Effective Implementation of Common Core State Standards for ELLs

Delia Pompa and Kenji Hakuta

This paper argues that the heightened expectations around language in the new standards pose major challenges for all students who engage with rich academic content, especially English language learners (ELLs).

The authors make five policy recommendations designed to give ELLs the educational supports necessary to meet the new higher standards:

Robert Linquanti: Large scale assessment systems and ELLs

Issues and Opportunities in Improving the Quality of Large Scale Assessment Systems for ELLs

Jamal Abedi and Robert Linquanti

This paper outlines and addresses fundamental issues in assessing English Language Learners (ELLs), including “construct-irrelevant” factors that add unnecessary difficulty to tests, as well as uses of summative versus formative assessment. The paper also highlights assessment innovations relevant to ELLs, discussing their promise and potential pitfalls.


Online Community for Teachers of ELLs

Robert Lucas and John Willinsky

This paper recommends strategies for cultivating—as opposed to centrally planning—an online community that supports the goals of Understanding Language, beginning with the assumption that technological development should serve the needs and shared goals of community members.

10.María Santos: Teacher development, Common Core, and ELLs

Teacher Development Appropriate to Support ELLs

María Santos, Linda Darling-Hammond, and Tina Cheuk

This paper outlines strategies to prepare teachers to better meet the needs of English Language Learners (ELLs). New academic and language demands placed on students will require the development of new skills among teachers and school leaders.