Conn. to move on new standards for teaching non-English learners in public schools

Students in class (Photo: Shutterstock)

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut is about to begin a new era in teaching kids that don’t speak English as their native language. The State Board of Education is expected to approve new English language proficiency standards for teachers at its meeting tomorrow.

There are just over half a million kids in Connecticut Public Schools this fall. About 80,000 of them speak another language other than English. It’s mostly Spanish but there are also large pockets of Portuguese, Polish, Mandarin, Vietnamese, and others. 143 different dominant languages in all. Of those 80,000, a little less than half, about 35,000 are learning English and need to become proficient in it.

“These standards are clearer and they’re also more rigorous so they’re more likely to help kids acquire English more quickly while they’re also learning content such as science or social studies,” said Connecticut Department of Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell.

This is not about bi-lingual education. That’s for kids who might have comprehension problems if subjects are not presented in their native language. This is about English learners that need support in learning English as a second language because there is a significant achievement gap in Connecticut between English learners and the rest of the student population.

Lawmakers on the Education Committee got their first briefing on the plan today.

“This new curriculum is meant to help all teachers better speed those children along the way,” said Rep. Andy Fleischmann (D-West Hartford), the co-chair of the Education Committee. Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-Wilton) the ranking Republican on that same committee adding, “Teachers who deal primarily with content and encounter in their daily job, children whose first language is not English.”

For Wentzell, the state’s new Education Commissioner, this will be the first big change required of teachers starting next year, “The main reason for moving to a new set of standards is to align with the college and career expectations for all of our students.”

Here is the link to the State Education department bulletin:

 And here is the link to the draft standards:

Both can be found by going to the website,, and clicking on Academics under QuickLinks on the right side, and then clicking on English language learners on the bottom.

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