English Language Learners and the New Standards: Developing Language, Content Knowledge, and Analytical Practices in the Classroom

By: Margaret Heritage, Aida Walqui, and Robert Linquanti

WestEd authors Margaret Heritage, Aída Walqui, and Robert Linquanti explain the theories and research that underlie their vision and examine the role of policy in shaping pedagogy and assessment for English language learners (ELLs).

They present a clear vision and practical suggestions for helping teachers engage ELLs in simultaneously learning subject-area content, analytical practices, and language.

This book:

  • Clarifies the skills and knowledge teachers need to integrate content knowledge and language development
  • Shows how teachers can integrate formative assessment in ongoing teaching and learning
  • Discusses key leverage points and stress points in using interim and summative assessments with ELLs
  • Provides classroom vignettes illustrating key practices

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Scaffolding the Academic Success of Adolescent English Language Learners: A Pedagogy of Promise

By: Aida Walqui and Leo van Lier

Too often, the needs of English language learners are met with simplified curricula and lowered expectations. What would happen if instead classrooms were organized to honor the promise of these students by increasing rather than decreasing the intellectual challenge of instruction? This book is the result of a decade-long effort in school districts such as New York City, Austin, and San Diego to implement challenging instruction that is designed for classrooms that include English learners and that raises the bar and increases engagement for all learners.

Sample chapters

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Access and Engagement: Program Design and Instructional Approaches for Immigrant Students in Secondary Schools

By: Aida Walqui

Many immigrant students in secondary school have problems succeeding because of the structures of the schools themselves. This book profiles six students to help illuminate the needs of immigrant students. It details the structural obstacles that inhibit students’ success, and it describes ten priorities for designing effective teaching and learning contexts for immigrant students. The author describes four promising programs in detail and makes recommendations in the areas of future program development and research.

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Selected Articles and Briefs


Professional Learning Community Facilitators’ Guide to Discussion of “English Language Learners and the New Standards: Developing Language, Content Knowledge, and Analytical Practices in the Classroom”

By Margaret Heritage, Aída Walqui, Robert Linquanti, Haiwen Chu, Elsa Billings, Leslie Hamburger

The book, English Language Learners and the New Standards, provides a clear, timely, and practical path for helping teachers engage English language learner (ELL) students in simultaneously learning subject-area content, analytical practices, and language.

This mathematics-focused facilitators’ guide is designed to help professional learning communities (PLCs) of teachers, administrators, and/or school district staff discuss the book and develop goals and steps toward improving mathematics learning for all students.

For each book chapter, the guide offers a set of engaging activities, conversations, and structured planning time for groups to get the most out of reading English Language Learners and the New Standards together.

Topics covered in both the book and facilitators’ guide include:

  • Pedagogical shifts that support ambitious learning for ELLs
  • Language acquisition in the mathematics classroom
  • The role of formative assessment
  • The role of summative assessment
  • The role of policy

Originally developed for use in the Math in Common network of 10 California school districts, this guide is now available for free to any group interested in English learners and math performance.

Changes in the Expertise of ESL Professionals: Knowledge and Action in an Era of New Standards

By Guadalupe Valdés, Amanda Kibler, Aída Walqui

Date: 2014

Publisher: TESOL International Association

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Common Core and Next Generation standards present new challenges and possibilities for English as a-second language (ESL) professionals. In addition, the implementation of the standards raise critical questions about long-established ideas about the teaching and learning of English as a second language.

This paper, cowritten by Aida Walqui of WestEd’s Quality Teaching for English Learners, explores the shifting landscape surrounding the new standards and its implications for building and enacting teacher expertise.

The paper is intended to inform ESL professionals, including teachers, teacher-leaders, school principals, district administrators, and other K–12 educators who work primarily or exclusively with students labeled as English language learners (ELLs).

The authors:

  • Discuss, and provide a brief introduction to, the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards
  • Discuss the English language proficiency standards; that is, the standards that establish the goals of ESL instruction in each state as well as the assessment of expected proficiencies
  • Address two key challenges facing ESL professionals in the new standards era: the language practices required by the standards themselves and the issue of how ELLs can best be included in standards-aligned instruction
  • Suggest key ways in which ESL professionals can translate knowledge of changing theories about language and language acquisition into expertise and action in supporting ELLs’ needs in the new standards era

What are we doing to middle school English learners: Findings and recommendations for change from a study of California EL programs

By Aída Walqui, Nanette Koelsch, and Leslie Hamburger, et al.

Date: 2010

Publisher: WestEd

Narrative Summary

Full report

Within the next decade, one in every four students in U.S. classrooms will be an English learner (EL). Furthermore, secondary students make up the fastest growing sector of the EL population. In middle school (and above), students who are English learners run out of time quickly. What are schools doing during the crucial middle school years to promote English learners’ accelerated access to academic language and grade-level, standards-based instruction? How will these students catch up and be able to compete in high school, in college, and on the job market? This study concludes that based on findings in California, where 30 percent of the nation’s English learner students are educated, middle school EL programs are failing students and limiting their futures in profound ways.


Improving Literacy Outcomes for English Language Learners in High School: Considerations for States and Districts in Developing a Coherent Policy Framework

By: Nanette Koelsch

Date: 2006

Publisher: National High School Center

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This research brief, published by the National High School Center, outlines existing barriers regarding teacher expectations, tracking, and placement of English language learners. The author concludes that states and districts need to change their approach for working with English learners from one of remediation to academic acceleration and enrichment. This research brief offers key policies and useful strategies for building capacity and creating learning environments conducive for the academic success of all students.


Selected States’ Responses to Supporting High School English Language Learners

By: Nanette Koelsch

Date: 2009

Publisher: National High School Center

Full report

How have states responded to the English language learner accountability requirements of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act at the high school level? This policy brief, prepared by WestEd for the National High School Center, provides a snapshot of achievement and educational outcomes of secondary English language learners, and several states’ efforts to improve the assessment and reporting of these outcomes, including their state-level accountability systems and policies.


Language and the Common Core State Standards

By Leo Van Lier and Aida Walqui

Date: 2012

Publisher: Stanford University

Full Article

This paper addresses the place and role of a focus on language in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The language and subject standards are open to being interpreted in a rather narrow, accuracy-based way, or in a broad, all-encompassing way that encourages the development of cognitive, linguistic, and affective strengths in ELs, thus enabling their academic success through connecting language, subject matter knowledge, and the physical, social and symbolic worlds of the learners. The Common Core Standards provide us with an opportunity to reconceptualize our pedagogical view of language and the ways in which it can be taught. Given that learning progressions in language and subject matter content have not been empirically tested, it would make sense to explore progressions based on language as action in the education of English Language Learners.  It is essential that we do not miss this opportunity to integrate language, cognition, and action deeply and coherently.

Additional Selected Publications

Walqui, A. (2010, Feb.). Scaffolding success: Five principles for succeeding with adolescent English learners. Language Magazine, 2010(2), 24–29.

Walqui, A. (2007). The development of teacher expertise to work with adolescent English Learners: A model and a few priorities. In L. Verplaetse and N. Migliacci (Eds.), Inclusive pedagogy for English language learners. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Walqui, A. (2007). Scaffolding instruction for English learners: A conceptual framework. In O. Garcia & C. Baker (Eds.), Bilingual education: An introductory reader. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Walqui, A. (2005). Who are our students? In P. Richard-Amato and M. Snow (Eds.), Academic success for English learners: Strategies for K-12 mainstream teachers. White Plains, NY: Pearson Education ESL.