April 22, 2012

New National Initiative "Understanding Language" Launched

Stanford University and the Oakland (CA) Unified School District announce the launch of a new national initiative entitled Understanding Language. The Common Core State Standards have generated a tremendous amount of reform energy in education. This initiative seizes this moment to develop a new level of awareness about the role of language in understanding and displaying knowledge of academic content. The partners in the Understanding Language initiative want to leverage this realization to improve academic outcomes, especially for English Language Learners, but also for all students, through better instructional practice and necessary policy supports at the state and local levels.

On the initiative website (http://ell.stanford.edu), you'll see the first step – an in-depth analysis of the language demands and opportunities contained in the new standards in English language arts and literacy, math, and the Next Generation Science Standards. You can find papers by experts specially prepared for this initiative, and discussed at a national conference held at Stanford this past January. The main message is that language matters -- it has always mattered, but it matters especially so with the new standards. The implication is that content and language specialists need to collaborate to effectively educate ELLs, and we need to develop the necessary tools and systems to make this happen.

Practical guides will follow. The content and language partners on the Understanding Language team, collaborating with school districts and states through the Council of Great City Schools and the Council of Chief State School Officers, are taking the next step of identifying, developing, testing, and sharing exemplars of language-rich practices in the content areas. This next step for the initiative will be shared through the website in the upcoming months. And further steps are being taken to engage the education community with our resources and our message to create better supports at the federal, state, and local levels.

Please look through foundational papers on this site, take advantage of the webinars and feeds, and please collaborate with the initiative's partners (including the New York Department of Education and the National Council of La Raza, as well as Stanford University, the Oakland USD, CCSSO, and CGCS) and leadership (including co-chairs Kenji Hakuta and Maria Santos, as well as Aida Walqui, Guadalupe Valdes, Okhee Lee, and several other nationally known education experts, researchers, and advocates). We hope to make this an authentic online learning community. For more information please contact UnderstandingLanguage at stanford dot edu.

Educational Opportunities: New National Initiative "Understanding Language" Launched. NCELA List (NCELA@HERMES.GWU.EDU, 19 Apr 2012).

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