Council Releases Report on Supporting Foundational Literacy for English Learners

  • A document newly published by the Council of the Great City Schools provides essential information and resources for bolstering literacy skills in English for students who speak other languages at home.

    The document, titled A Framework for Foundational Literacy Skills Instruction for English Learners, has four major parts—an overview of the research, a section envisioning optimal instruction, a summation of what teachers need to know about language, and considerations in selecting instructional materials.

    In a foreword, Council Executive Director Ray Hart described the document as being “a vision for foundational literacy skills instruction that meets the complex needs of English learners.”

    Its executive summary emphasizes that the document aspires to help educators “rethink” English foundational skills instruction by laying out current and relevant research, explaining what teachers should know and do, and focusing on the design and selection of pertinent instructional materials.

    One section identifies six guiding principles for foundational skills development of English learners, including practical advice specific to each principle. Each has a section headlined, “So, what does this look like in a classroom?”

    According to its introduction, the document “makes a case for a comprehensive and connected approach to foundation literacy skills development to ELs.” Its audience will be educators in the field, and it will serve as a resource for committees and individuals who make decisions about instructional materials.

    Hart credited the work of the Foundational Skills for ELs Working Group, made up of EL program directors and staff, for their expertise and for raising awareness of real-world challenges in the field. Gabriela Uro, Council director of ELL policy and research; David Lai, Council ELL policy manager; and Tamara Alsace, bilingual education consultant; led the effort.

    The 78 urban school districts represented by the Council enroll more than one-quarter of the nation’s five million English learners. As a result, the information and resources in this document may impact more than 1.3 million ELs in Council districts, which for some districts is the majority of ELs in a single state.

    According to Uro, the report responds to an important need identified by Great City Schools practitioners who must supplement current approaches to foundational literacy instruction, which are inadequate for ELs because they are based on literacy development of monolingual English-speakers.

    “We embarked on this exacting work because our internal research signaled an urgent need to support EL Program administrators in their efforts to ensure that ELs receive foundational skills instructional that is based on research that understands the unique literacy trajectories of children who are learning more than one language,” said Uro.