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With No Separate Common Core Language and Math Standards for ELLs and Diverse Learners; Steinhardt's Okhee Lee Says "Do" Language With Science

April 8, 2013

Is there a separate standard for students with disabilities, English language learners (ELLs), gifted and talented students, and other diverse student groups? The short answer: no, according to the last question on the teaching standards guidelines Q&A on the official Engage NY website for Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English Language Arts and Mathematics.

“The consensus among educators at all levels is that ELLs and other diverse student groups need some sort of dedicated effort in order to keep up with their peers as the CCSS are implemented,” said Okhee Lee, professor of teaching and learning at NYU Steinhardt and a member of the leadership team for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). “We’ve acknowledged the problem, but have not explained how to solve it. That is the purpose of this effort. We want to address the ‘how’ for the NGSS.”

With the upcoming release of NGSS, Lee and her team are focusing on how to better teach science to ELLs and diverse learners. They also hope to provide implications for the rigors of the CCSS currently being implemented across the nation.

“Typically when you think of a classroom with ELLs or students with disabilities, they are sitting in the back of the room and not participating. What NGSS highlight is that these students should engage in the practice of doing science,” Lee explained. “For example, have students build a model of the ecosystem. This could illustrate the core idea. They could also explain the cause and effect of how the ecosystem develops in response to different factors. Through engagement, language learning and science learning occur simultaneously.”

Lee, an English language learner herself, asserts that having students develop models, construct explanations, and argue from evidence enables these diverse learners to understand core ideas within science while acquiring technical aspects of language like vocabulary or sentence structure. According to Lee, this is extremely important since the CCSS are moving heavily toward building content knowledge across academic disciplines for all students.

Over the course the 2012-2013 school year, the NYU Steinhardt Education Policy Breakfast Series has examined the Common Core State Standards. On Friday, April 19, Lee, James Cibulka of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), and Ramon Gonzalez, principal of MS 223: The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology, will close the series with a focus on CCSS desired outcomes and potential consequences. In February, Susan Neuman, chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning and author of “Give Children a Fighting Chance,” tackled CCSS challenges in evaluation.

The first installment, on Nov. 30, featured John B. King, Jr., New York State Education Commissioner, and Shael Polakow-Suransky, senior deputy chancellor at the New York City Department of Education, and discussed current implementation of the curriculum.

About the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
Located in the heart of Greenwich Village, NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development prepares students for careers in the arts, education, health, media, and psychology. Since its founding in 1890, the Steinhardt School's mission has been to expand human capacity through public service, global collaboration, research, scholarship, and practice. To learn more about NYU Steinhardt, visit:


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Steinhardt Researcher, Lee, Says "Do" Language With Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

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