The 2000s: Addressing Language and Cultural Differences

In the 2000s, the need for better understanding of language and culture was underscored by conflicts and tensions around the world. In the United States, calls went out for proficient speakers of critical languages. There was growing attention to language and culture in our increasingly diverse U.S. society—in schools, communities, and workplaces. There was a need for more effective programs and instructional practices, better assessment of learners’ progress, and research on effective programs for students learning English.

Addressing Proficiency in Critical Languages

Because the United States did not have sufficient capacity in languages other than English to meet its diplomatic, security, economic, and social goals, the U.S. Government established programs to enhance the country’s capabilities in critical-need languages, such as Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Hindi, and Russian. In response,

  • CAL collaborated with the National Foreign Language Center (NFLC) to provide resources, professional development for teachers, and program evaluation for STARTALK, a program for K-12 students.
  • CAL established the English for Heritage Language Speakers (EHLS) program, an intensive course of study provided at Georgetown University to help adults with advanced proficiency in critical-need languages achieve professional level proficiency in English.

Supporting Effective Language Programs for Diverse Populations

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 established a national goal of ensuring that all students succeed. CAL supported this goal by disseminating resources for programs serving diverse learner populations and providing professional development for their teachers.

  • The Great Lakes East Comprehensive Technical Assistance Center provided capacity-building assistance to three states to improve the educational opportunities and outcomes of English language learners.
  • A variety of professional development contracts with school districts provided workshops for teachers of different populations of English learners, many using the SIOP Model.
  • The Center for Adult English Language Acquisition (CAELA) extended the learner population to adult immigrants, helping teachers work effectively with this population.

Assessing Language Learning

With education policy focusing more on accountability and assessment, CAL’s work in the field of assessment accelerated. During this decade, CAL

  • participated in launching the WIDA Consortium, a partnership of states focusing on English test development and administration;
  • organized the East Coast Organization of Language Testers (ECOLT), to bring together professionals, scholars, and students involved in language testing; and
  • launched BEST Plus, an oral English language assessment, and BEST Literacy, a print-based test of reading and writing skills, both for use with adult English language learners.

Conducting Research

CAL conducted research on language development during this decade, including

  • investigation of the literacy and language development of Spanish-speaking students;
  • a comprehensive review of research on the development of literacy among language minority children and youth, to guide educational practice and policy, reported in Developing Literacy in Second-Language Learners;
  • a national survey and case study research on programs for newcomer students, resulting in an online database of exemplary programs for newcomers at the secondary school level and a book, Helping Newcomer Students Succeed in Secondary Schools and Beyond;
  • development and testing of an intervention to build middle school students’ science and academic English language skills;
  • development and testing of an intervention to train teachers in using the SIOP Model for teaching middle school science;
  • a multi-site study of the development of bilingualism and biliteracy from Grades 3 to 5 in students participating in Spanish-English two-way immersion programs; and
  • the third survey of K-12 foreign language programs in the United States.

Supporting Opportunities for All

As part of the effort to ensure that all students are served effectively, CAL convened a national conference for educators working with newcomer students.

CAL’s Cultural Orientation Resource (COR) Center continued the work of the Refugee Service Center (RSC) by developing and disseminating materials to help refugee newcomers, and those working with them, understand fundamental aspects of life in the United States. The COR Center produced culture profiles of the people, history, and culture of new refugee populations to help U.S. service providers understand them.

Recognizing that many students speak a language other than English at home, their heritage language, which has an important role in their lives and learning, CAL collaborated with the National Foreign Language Center to hold the second National Heritage Language Conference and establish the Alliance for the Advancement of Heritage Languages, with a focus on developing the quality of heritage language programs, bringing them together, and advancing the language development of these students.