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Words Were All We Had coverLanguage Diversity, School Learning, and Closing Achievement Gaps: A Workshop Summary

Melissa Welch-Ross, Rapporteur

Published by
The National Academies Press

This report summarizes presentations and discussions from a 2-day workshop convened by the National Research Council in October 2009. Planned by the Committee on the Role of Language in School Learning: Implications for Closing the Achievement Gap, the workshop provided a forum for researchers and practitioners to review and discuss relevant research findings from varied perspectives. The committee included Donna Christian from the Center for Applied Linguistics.

The workshop was designed to seek expert insight into the issues that surround the study of language, academic learning, and achievement gaps. Discussions from workshop participants focused on three questions: What is known about the conditions that affect language development? What are the effects of early language development on school achievement? What instructional approaches help students meet school demands for language and reading comprehension? Of particular interest was the degree to which group differences in school achievement might be attributed to language differences, and whether language-related instruction might help to close gaps in achievement by helping students cope with language-intensive subject matter, especially after the third grade.

Topics that formed the basis of the workshop included vocabulary, academic language, preschool language experiences that predict reading and achievement, explicit instruction for speakers of second languages and dialects, cross-linguistic transfer (the effect of a first language on learning a second), and new frameworks for research. This report summarizes and synthesizes the presentations and discussions and highlights the differing viewpoints on what available research findings might imply for future research and practice.

2010 105 pages

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