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Language Link

March 2000


Previous issues

Feature Article:
ESL Standards for Pre-K–12 Students: Before and After

Language Policy Update

Journal Review:
TESOL Quarterly


News Corner:
*News from ERIC/CLL
*News from the National Clearinghouse for ESL Literacy Education (NCLE)
*News from ERIC and the U.S. Department of Education
*News from Our Colleagues

This publication was prepared with funding from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, National Library of Education, under contract no. ED-99-CO-0008. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of OERI, ED, or NLE.


ESL Standards for Pre-K–12 Students: Before and After

Emily L. Gómez, Center for Applied Linguistics

This article is based on a chapter in the forthcoming book Implementing the ESL Standards for Pre-K–12 Students Through Teacher Education, to be published by Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

Release of TESOL's ESL Standards for Pre-K–12 Students was the result of a convergence of events in the education reform movement in the United States and the work of a great many people in the field of English as a second language (ESL) education and in other discipline areas. The standards have resulted in improvements in professional development, curricula, and program design. Resulting publications and other resources have also given teachers, administrators, and policymakers new tools to work with as they seek to provide a quality education for all children.


Events leading up to the publication of ESL Standards for Pre-K–12 Students were triggered in part by the 1983 release of A Nation at Risk. Subsequently, The National Education Goals Report: Building a Nation of Learners was published; the Goals 2000: Educate America Act was adopted; and standards for content areas such as mathematics and foreign languages were released. These developments created, defined, and refined the notion of what standards-based education reform looks like, and how it can be achieved.

Throughout the process, Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), with assistance from the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL), has taken a leading role in ensuring that the needs of English language learners are included in the national discussion.

In early 1991, the TESOL organization began to study the education reform movement, beginning at a meeting of regional experts in K–12 ESL education (policy makers, teacher educators, administrators, classroom teachers), who discussed strategies for TESOL's involvement in advocating for language minority students. A task force was formed, a subset of which met at the 1992 conference of the National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE) in Albuquerque. The full task force then met with ESL representatives from state education agencies at the 1992 TESOL Convention in Vancouver. An important product of the task force meetings was the 1993 brochure, The TESOL Standards: Ensuring Access to Quality Educational Experiences for Language Minority Students--also known as the Access Brochure--which described the framework of services for the delivery of education to language minority students. This brochure became the first of several advocacy tools that could be used to encourage inclusion of English language learners in the educational reform movement.

By 1994, TESOL had formed a second task force to monitor national standards development. Members of this task force recognized that the various organizations writing standards for content areas such as science, history, English language arts, civics, and geography were not taking the needs of English language learners into account. In fact, only two of the national content standards (English language arts and foreign languages) specifically included reference to ESL students or culturally diverse students. Even the objectives and data-gathering criteria established by the National Education Goals Panel, charged with monitoring national progress toward meeting the national goals, did not identify limited English proficient as a category needing special examination.

Meanwhile, demographic changes in U.S. schools were requiring that more, not less, attention be paid to the historically marginalized population of English language learners. It was becoming clearer to the task force that content standards addressing the academic needs of ESL students should be developed.

In 1994, this second task force began to develop the conceptual framework for content ESL standards. The framework described why ESL standards were needed, discussed myths about second language learning that TESOL wanted to dispel, outlined general principles of second language acquisition, and articulated TESOL's vision of effective education for English language learners. This document also described nine ESL standards and organized them around three goals. This conceptual framework, later named Promising Futures, was shared with TESOL members in 1995 and then published the following year.

At the 1995 TESOL convention, the TESOL Board of Directors approved conversion of the task force into a full project, The ESL Standards Project. Following the convention, the project team created guidelines for writing standards and organized the document into grade-level clusters: pre-K-3, 4-8, and 9-12. Within the grade-level clusters, each standard under the identified goal was to be illustrated by descriptors, sample progress indicators, a vignette, and discussion. These terms are defined below.

Goals are defined as overarching intentions for English language use; they are tied to social and academic language and appropriate use.

Standards are what students should know and be able to do as a result of instruction.

Descriptors are broad categories of behaviors that students can demonstrate when they have met a standard.

Progress Indicators are assessable, observable activities that students may perform to show progress toward meeting the standard; they are organized by grade-level clusters.

Vignettes are brief instructional sequences that show the standards in action, organized by grade-level clusters.

Discussions are brief explanations of teacher and student actions in each of the vignettes, linking vignettes to standards and progress indicators.

TESOL and NABE affiliate and state representatives were enlisted to form teams of experts to write the standards. These teams were asked to generate descriptors and sample progress indicators for their assigned standard and grade-level cluster. In the vignettes, they were to describe activities that they had undertaken successfully with their students that addressed their specific goal and standard. They were also asked to describe the school setting (i.e., urban, suburban, or rural), the students' ethnicity and English proficiency levels, and the type of classroom in which the instruction took place (e.g., self-contained ESL classroom, content classroom, sheltered, or content classroom).

The ESL standards core team benefited greatly from the development experiences of other content-area standards-writing teams, especially the team for foreign languages. TESOL's team used the foreign language standards as a model, in particular, the concepts of progress indicators based on proficiency levels and classroom learning scenarios that exemplify the standards in action. The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Reading Association's (IRA) English language arts standards also used classroom vignettes. Their standards document was the only one in a content area that included ESL and bilingual students in the vignettes.


Throughout the fall of 1995 and into the early part of 1996, the core team revised the writing teams' submissions and created additional vignettes and discussions. By March 1996, a draft of the ESL Standards for Pre-K–12 Students was ready to be distributed. The team shared the document with the TESOL membership at the annual convention in Chicago. Based on the reviews received from TESOL members as well as from invited reviewers and policy makers, the document was reorganized and additional pieces added over the course of the next year. The final standards document was published in 1997. The goals and standards appear below.

Goals for ESOL Learners

TESOL has established three broad goals for English language learners at all age levels, goals that include personal, social, and academic uses of English. Each goal is associated with three distinct standards. In TESOL's vision, students will meet these standards as a result of the instruction they receive.

Goal 1: To use English to communicate in social settings

Students will:

1. use English to participate in social interaction
2. interact in, through, and with spoken and written English for personal expression and enjoyment
3. use learning strategies to extend their communicative competence

Goal 2: To use English to achieve academically in all content areas

Standards for Goal 2

Students will:

1. use English to interact in the classroom
2. use English to obtain, process, construct, and provide subject matter information in spoken and written form
3. use appropriate learning strategies to construct and apply academic knowledge

Goal 3: To use English in socially and culturally appropriate ways Standards for Goal 3

Students will:

1. use the appropriate language variety, register, and genre according to audience, purpose, and setting
2. use nonverbal communication appropriate to audience, purpose, and setting
3. use appropriate learning strategies to extend their sociolinguistic and sociocultural competence

In 1996, the "ESL Standards Project" grew into the "ESL Standards and Assessment Project." An assessment team was formed to develop a framework for assessing English language learners' attainment of the standards. As a result, Managing the Assessment Process: A Framework for Measuring Attainment of the ESL Standards was published in 1998. The framework is essentially a position paper describing what good assessment should look like. A second assessment book, Scenarios for ESL Standards-Based Assessment, will be published later this year.


The publication of ESL Standards for Pre-K–12 Students was a milestone in the history of the ESL profession. Finally, here was a document--published by a national professional organization for teachers of English--that defined what effective education for English language learners looked like. By reading the vignettes and seeing themselves mirrored in the pages of the ESL standards, many teachers felt validated that they were on the right track. Teachers saw that, regardless of the program label under which they taught, many of the strategies and techniques they were using were appropriate for teaching ESL and the skills necessary to achieve in content classes.

Once teachers and administrators read through the ESL standards, they also saw that they could do more for their students. By using this document and others discussed above as advocacy tools, they could move their school, district, or state to provide more comprehensive services for English language learners.

Educators saw that much could be done to align their programs with the ESL standards in terms of curriculum and assessment revision and professional development. They realized that the standards document and its companion pieces, Managing the Assessment Process: A Framework for Measuring Attainment of the ESL Standards; Training Others to Use the ESL Standards: A Professional Development Manual; and Implementing the ESL Standards for Pre-K–12 Students Through Teacher Education could provide them with some of the missing pieces in developing their programs.

Policy makers and administrators at the state and district level began to realize that they needed to revise their ESL curricula and assessment systems to align them with the ESL standards. TESOL responded by providing many training opportunities for educators to learn about the standards and their applications.

State and district ESL/bilingual or professional development offices have also sponsored workshops for their personnel to aid them in developing an understanding of the standards. Many states and districts have also spearheaded efforts to revise or develop standards-based curricula and assessment systems. Through standards-based curriculum and assessment program revisions, hundreds, if not thousands, of teachers and administrators have reflected on the quality of their programs and have been encouraged to take advantage of professional development opportunities.

As reaction to the ESL standards developed, TESOL saw the need to work with select implementation sites to monitor the process and to facilitate standards-based reform. For example, the ESL standards team has monitored the process through which a standards-based ESOL curriculum is being developed and implemented across the K–12 spectrum in Montgomery County, Maryland. The team also joined with the Massachusetts TESOL affiliate, MATSOL, to provide professional development to five districts in Massachusetts with low numbers of English language learners.

Once the standards document was published, the TESOL Board of Directors recognized the need for continued support of the ESL standards and assessment project and began to plan for additional publications and other support services to ensure that these standards would be implemented in as many districts and states as possible.

The training and implementation publications mentioned above have resulted from this planning, as have additional services, including workshops and an ESL standards implementation listserv. To subscribe, send an e-mail message to In the subject line, type "subscribe." Leave the rest of the e-mail message blank.

The ESL standards implementation database is also available. This database is a compilation of responses from school, district, and state personnel regarding the status of their ESL standards-based reform efforts.

The full impact of the release of the ESL Standards for Pre-K--12 Students will not be known for some time, but the standards have clearly made a strong initial impression on educators who work with ESL and bilingual students. The document has put the educational spotlight on students learning English and addresses how educators can help these students move successfully from the ESL or bilingual classroom to the mainstream classroom. Once these standards are achieved, a student should be ready to meet the other content-area standards. The ESL standards can thus be seen as an on-ramp to success, providing the framework for schools, districts, and states to evaluate their programs and improve the education of English language learners.


Publications with an "ED" number have been included in the ERIC database and can be ordered from the ERIC Document Reproduction Service (EDRS) at or by calling 1-800-443-ERIC (3742).

Goals panel expresses concern for status of U.S. education. (1993). Washington, DC: Numbers and Needs, 3(2), p. 2.

National Commission on Excellence in Education. (1983). A nation at risk: The imperative for educational reform. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office. (ED 226 006).

National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association. (1996). Standards for the English language arts. Urbana, IL: Author. (ED 389 003).

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (1989). Curriculum and evaluation standards for school mathematics. Reston, VA: Author.

National Education Goals Panel. (1991). The national education goals report: Building a nation of learners. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office. (ED 334 280).

National Standards in Foreign Language Education Project. (1996). Standards for foreign language learning: Preparing for the 21st century. Lawrence, KS: Allen Press.

Short, D.J., Gomez, E.L, Cloud, N., Katz, A., Gottlieb, M., & Malone, M. (2000). Training others to use the ESL standards: A professional development manual. Alexandria, VA: TESOL.

Snow, M.A. (Ed.). (2000). Implementing the ESL standards for pre-K–12 students through teacher education. Alexandria, VA: TESOL.

Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. (1996). Promising futures. Alexandria, VA: Author.

Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. (1997). ESL standards for pre-K--12 students. Alexandria, VA: Author.

Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. (1998a). ESL standards training manual. Alexandria, VA: Author.

Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. (1998b). Managing the assessment process: A framework for measuring attainment of the ESL standards. Alexandria, VA: Author.

Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. (2000). Scenarios for ESL standards-based assessment. Alexandria, VA: Author. Draft available:

For more information about the ESL standards and related publications, visit TESOL's Web site at

Also visit CAL's Web site at


Language Policy Update

On March 15, 2000, Education Secretary Richard W. Riley gave an address entitled Excelencia para Todos-Excellence for All: The Progress of Hispanic Education and the Challenges of a New Century. In his speech, Secretary Riley highlighted the successes of two-way (dual) immersion programs in which both Spanish and English-speaking students develop language skills in the other language. He challenged our nation to increase the number of schools with two-way immersion programs to at least 1,000 over the next five years. The full text of the speech is available at

The Joint National Committee for Languages (JNCL) offers regular legislative updates. Visit the What's New section for news about budget issues, national language policy, professional activities, grants and funding, and for federal notices.



Journal Review

TESOL Quarterly

In each issue of ERIC/CLL Language Link, we feature one or more of the journals that we abstract and index for Current Index to Journals in Education (CIJE), the ERIC database's monthly index to education-related journals.

In this issue, our journal review profiles TESOL Quarterly.

TESOL Quarterly

TESOL Quarterly (ISSN 0039-8322) is a quarterly refereed journal concerned with the teaching of English as a second or foreign language and the teaching of standard English as a second dialect. TESOL Quarterly represents a wide range of cross-disciplinary interests, both theoretical and practical. One issue per volume is devoted to a special topic. Each issue includes articles, debates, and book reviews. Recent articles and debates in TESOL Quarterly have included "Thinking Critically, Thinking Dialogically," "TESOL and Culture," "Popular Research and Social Transformation: A Community-Based Approach to Critical Pedagogy," "The ESL Classroom: Teaching, Critical Practice, and Community Development," "Nonnative-English-Speaking Professionals in TESOL," "Do U.S. MATESOL Programs Prepare Students to Teach Abroad?" and "The TESOL Practicum: An Integrated Model in the U.S." TESOL Quarterly is published by the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc (TESOL). To subscribe, contact TESOL at 700 South Washington Street, Suite 200, Alexandria VA 22314, 703-836-0774,, or

You can recognize journal abstracts in the ERIC database by their "EJ" prefix followed by a six-digit number. ERIC abstracts can be read at ERIC centers in libraries in the United States and overseas, as well as on the World Wide Web ( Subscriptions to the journals can be obtained from the publishers; individual articles from many journals are available through the following reprint services:

UMI ProQuest Direct

The UnCover Company

You may also wish to contact your local university or research library.



ERIC/CLL would like to thank the publishers of the following journals for announcing our "call for papers" inviting contributions to the ERIC database:

Applied Linguistics Journal (

Language, Culture, and Curriculum (



News from ERIC/CLL

Access and Engagement: Program Design and Instructional Approaches for Immigrant Students in Secondary School by Aída Walqui is the fourth volume in the series Topics in Immigrant Education edited by Joy Kreeft Peyton and Donna Christian. Access and Engagement details the challenges faced by immigrant students in secondary school and the ways that schools can address those challenges. Contact Delta Systems for ordering information by calling 1-800-323-8270 or visiting their Web site.

From October 13 to November 30, 1999, ERIC/CLL collected survey data at our Web site. We are pleased to report that 164 users responded to some or all of the questions. Survey results yielded the following information:

88% of respondents who requested information from us felt that their request was handled "as promptly as possible."

100% of respondents who called the Clearinghouse felt that the staff had been courteous to them.

During the data collection period, the publication most frequently downloaded from our Web site was ERIC/CLL Language Link, followed by our ERIC Digests.

65% of respondents rated the quality of our publications "excellent"; 30% rated them "good."

95% of respondents would recommend us an information source.

Respondents categorized themselves as follows:

PreK–12 School Teachers: 37 people (22%)

Postsecondary Faculty: 30 people (18%)

Adult Educators: 22 people (13%)

Postsecondary Students: 15 people (9%)

PreK–12 Administrators: 8 people (5%)

Small numbers of respondents categorized themselves as belonging in other professional or academic categories. Two respondents (1%) categorized themselves as parents.

These are some of the comments we received:

"Digests are superb, especially those with suggestions for teachers."

"I love your abstracts."

"Thank you for the wonderful service."

"Your service is excellent. It is the first place I refer anyone who has a question about language learning and bilingualism. I don't know what we would do in our profession without the wonderful resources you provide. BRAVO!"

Two new Resource Guides Online, Two-Way (Dual) Immersion and Raising Children Bilingually were published in December 1999. Resource Guides Online provide links to Web sites, publications, listservs, conferences, and other resources on topics of current interest. We have recently published a number of new digests. All are available at our Web site.

Ebonic Need not be English by Ralph W. Fasold, Georgetown University, December 1999

The Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol: A Tool for Teacher-Researcher Collaboration and Professional Development by Deborah J. Short, Center for Applied Linguistics, and Jana Echevarria, California State University, Long Beach, December 1999

Involuntary Language Loss Among Immigrants: Asian-American Linguistic Autobiographies by Leanne Hinton, University of California, Berkeley, December 1999

Promoting Language Proficiency and Academic Achievement Through Cooperation by Margarita Espino Calderăn, Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed at Risk, The Johns Hopkins University, December 1999


News from the National Clearinghouse for ESL Literacy Education (NCLE)

Take a moment to check out the latest digests now available in full-text at NCLE's Web site ( Remember that NCLE digests make wonderful staff development tools and can be duplicated and distributed as needed.

NCLE recently added two new features to its Web site. The Annotated List of ESL Publishers provides a reference and starting point for finding materials related to adult ESL. Each entry includes the publisher's name, contact information, and popular titles. The Annotated List of NCLE Publications groups some of NCLE's most popular digests by topic and provides descriptions of each.

NCLE staff are available to answer your questions at or 202-362-0700. Visit NCLE's Web site at


News from ERIC and the U.S. Department of Education

The following items appeared in ERICNews, a bimonthly electronic newsletter published by ACCESS ERIC. To subscribe, send the command SUBSCRIBE ERICNEWS FIRSTNAME LASTNAME (for example, SUBSCRIBE ERICNEWS JOHN SMITH) in the body of the message to

The ERIC Document Reproduction Service (EDRS) now offers online access to the full text of most ERIC documents produced since 1993. EDRS offers instant electronic access to more than 85% of reproducible ERIC documents produced since 1995 via its E*Subscribe service. For more information, contact EDRS at 1-800-443-3742 or

ERIC recently published Striving for Excellence, Volume IV: The National Education Priorities of the President and the U.S. Department of Education. This volume presents the latest issues, programs, and research associated with the following topics:

Reading Achievement

Mathematics Achievement

Student Preparations for College

Standards for Achievement and Accountability

Teaching Quality

Technology in the Classroom

Safe and Drug-Free Schools

To order this collection of 80 ERIC digests, send $10 to ACCESS ERIC, 2277 Research Boulevard MS 6L, Rockville, MD 20850 or call ACCESS ERIC at 1-800-LET-ERIC (538-3742). Prices include shipping.

The ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education recently translated its ResilienceNet Web site into Spanish. ResilienceNet is the most comprehensive worldwide source of current, reviewed information about human resilience. Focusing on resilience in children and families, ResilienceNet includes comprehensive bibliographies, links to Web sites, and full text publications, Access the English version at and the Spanish version at

New publications from ERIC/CLL's sister clearinghouses include Virtual Learning: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly from the ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education; New Directions for Community Colleges, from the ERIC Clearinghouse on Community Colleges; Teaching Expressive Writing to Students with Learning Disabilities from the ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education; Comprehensive School Reform, from the ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management; and The Supply and Demand of Elementary and Secondary School Teachers in the United States from the ERIC Clearinghouse on Teaching and Teacher Education. To read more about the work of these and other ERIC clearinghouses, visit

More information about ERIC is reported in the ERIC Users' Interchange, also published by ACCESS ERIC. Issues can be read at or you can call 1-800-LET-ERIC (538-3742) for a subscription.


News from Our Colleagues

The Center for Research on Education, Diversity & Excellence (CREDE) ( has just published Collaborative Practices in Bilingual Cooperative Learning Classrooms by John Gumperz, Jenny Cook-Gumperz, and Margaret Szymanski. To read more about this report or to order a copy, visit the CREDE publications Web site at the Center for Applied Linguistics (

Multilingual Matters publishing company offers the latest information on new language and linguistics publications in its online newsletter "Multilingual Matters Books News." To subscribe, send the message SUBSCRIBE LANGUAGE to In addition to book announcements, the newsletter reports on news from Multilingual Matters and provides information on submitting manuscripts for publication. Visit the Multilingual Matters Web site at

NCBE Newsline ( is a bi-weekly online newsletter from the National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education at The George Washington University. NCBE Newsline offers timely legislative updates; Department of Education news and publications updates; news from the Regional Laboratories; and information about awards, conferences, and job opportunities in the field of bilingual education. To subscribe, send an email message to In the message type SUBSCRIBE NEWSLINE.

Announcements included on the What's New section of the NCBE Web site at include posting of State of the State Reports on LEP Students from Ohio, Arkansas, and North Carolina, and of Vermont's requirements for ESL endorsement. NCBE has also published its Winter 2000 issue of Outreach News at

The National Foreign Language Center (NFLC) will publish Language and National Security for the 21st Century: The Role of Title VI/Fulbright-Hays in Supporting National Language Capacity in June 2000. For more information, send an email message to or

The Northeast and Islands Regional Laboratory at Brown University (LAB at Brown) has unveiled two new Web sites. The first, The Knowledge Loom: What Works in Teaching, is a Web-based resource developed for the U.S. Department of Education that features collections of proven K–12 best-practices resources (

The second new site from the LAB at Brown is Regional Literacy Practices at This site will become a rich site for regionally shared lessons, research, and inquiry about early literacy.

Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) offers an extensive news section at its Web site. Visit for timely articles on issues related to the profession, the Board of Directors, and ongoing projects and initiatives.

Visit TESOL Online's new Online Career Center at and search worldwide job listings, find out how to become qualified in TESOL, and gain job searching advice.

The TOEFL Policy Council sponsors several awards for doctoral research in second language assessment, outstanding scholarship in the field of second language assessment, international participation at TESOL, and international education. For more information, see the TOEFL Web site at or send an email message to

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