The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) asserts that all students, including those identified as English language learners (ELL), can and should have every opportunity to learn and succeed in science. Teachers play a critical and central role in this process and should receive necessary support. Likewise, it is important for schools and school systems to devote time and resources to effective professional development for all K–12 teachers of science, including those who teach English language learners (NSTA 2006). Educational policies and practices at every level of the education system should be in concert to provide students with equitable learning opportunities,as set forth in the declarations below.
The linguistic diversity of preK–16 students has been rapidly increasing in every part of the country (TESOL 1997, 2006). More than 5.5 million, or 11%, of public school students are now categorized as English language learners (NCES 2006), and schools, districts, and states are challenged to deliver high-quality instruction to these students (NSF 2006). Coupled with the reduction in the amount of classroom time devoted to school science instruction, particularly at the elementary level (CEP 2008), many of these students receive inadequate instruction and lack access to quality science programs.
It is important that educators who teach science to students identified as English language learners be well versed in science content and pedagogy, and also skilled in pedagogical approaches for integrating language acquisition and science learning. Standards by TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) supports this integration and promotes academic language proficiency—the language of school—in core content areas, including science (TESOL 2006). Research has shown that effective teacher preparation and professional development results in positive change in teachers’ beliefs and practices in integrating science and literacy for English language learners (Buck et al. 2005; Hart and Lee 2003; Stoddart et al. 2002).
Research on instructional interventions—such as culturally responsive teaching, guided inquiry, and sheltered English instruction—has shown promise for improving achievement outcomes in both science and literacy, as well as narrowing achievement gaps for students identified as English language learners (Amaral, Garrison, and Klentschy 2002; Lee et al. 2005; Lee et al. 2008; Thomas and Collier 2002).
To ensure all students including English language learners have opportunities to learn and excel in science, NSTA supports the following principles:
NSTA makes the following recommendations to support high-quality science instruction for students identified as English language learners.
NSTA recommends that teacher preparation and professional development programs for teachers, regardless of area of certification, focus on science content and pedagogy for English language learners and help teachers
High-quality science instruction should meet the learning needs of English language learners. NSTA recommends that science instruction
NSTA supports educational policies that meet the needs of ELL students learning science, including those that
NSTA supports a research agenda that promotes science learning for students identified as English language learners. NSTA recommends that future research
—Adopted by the NSTA Board of Directors, December 2009
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