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Review of  Language Minority Students in the Mainstream Classroom

Reviewer: Jo Tyler
Book Title: Language Minority Students in the Mainstream Classroom
Book Author: Angela Carrasquillo Vivian Rodriguez
Publisher: Multilingual Matters
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Issue Number: 13.2070

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Date: Fri, 09 Aug 2002 11:16:47 -0400
From: Jo Tyler
Subject: Language Minority Students in the Mainstream Classroom, 2nd ed. (2002)

Carrasquillo, Angela L. and Vivian Rodríguez (2002) Language Minority Students in the Mainstream Classroom, 2nd ed. Multilingual Matters,xvi+200pp, hardback ISBN 1-85359-565-9 GBP 39.95 / USD 59.95 / CanD 79.95, paperback ISBN 1-85359-564-0 GBP 12.95 / USD 19.95 / CanD 25.95, Bilingual Education and Bilingualism Series 33.

Jo Tyler, Center for Graduate and Professional Studies, Mary Washington College

The second edition of Language Minority Students in the Mainstream Classroom is a timely revision of the text originally published in 1996. The recent passage in the United States of the No Child Left Behind Act mandates that English language learners (ELLs) "meet the same challenging State academic content and student academic achievement standards as all children are expected to meet" (P.L. 107-110, Sec. 3102(1), et seq.). As a result, U.S. schools are under increasing pressure to include ELLs in the mainstream classroom, making this book an important addition to pedagogical literature. It is intended as a guidebook for classroom teachers, particularly those who have not specialized in teaching ELLs. It would also prove useful for school administrators, particularly in districts where bilingual education or English as a second language programs are not sufficiently available to serve the ELL population.

This review presents a descriptive synopsis of the text, noting substantive revisions from the first edition, followed by an evaluative discussion.

The book is divided into 10 chapters, plus an introduction, an extensive up-dated list of references, and a brief index. The Introduction sets forth the two leading objectives of the text: (1) to increase awareness among teachers in the mainstream classroom about the characteristics and needs of ELLs and (2) to offer theoretical background on and practical suggestions for instruction that integrates language development into the curriculum of the content areas. A useful point of discussion in the Introduction is a disclaimer about the terms 'limited English proficient (LEP) students', 'English language learners,' and 'language minority students'. Although the authors use the last term in the book's title, the combination 'LEP/ELL' is the most often used term in the text, reflecting a change from the use of simply 'LEP' in the first edition. The authors note the negative connotation of 'limited English proficient', yet this term is used throughout the recent legislation and widely in educational settings. (I will use the more neutral term 'ELL' in this review.)

Chapters 1 through 5 address the first part of the authors' purpose, to describe the characteristics and needs of ELLs. Chapter 1, Limited English Proficient Students in the Mainstream Classroom, provides an overview of issues involved in placing ELLs, with or without prior English language instruction, in classrooms with their native-speaking peers. Among the issues discussed are administrative and community concerns and policies, assessment of English language proficiency and content area knowledge, and effects of mainstream placement on students' self-esteem.

Both Chapters 2 and 3 contain extensive statistics, both national and state-specific, that demonstrate the rapid growth and demographic changes in the ELL school population. Although none of the statistics are as recent as the 2000 Census, most reflect reporting from the late 1990s. Chapter 2, Limited English Proficient Students/English Language Learners: Who are They?, presents a detailed description of the vast diversity in this population in terms of English language proficiency, first language literacy, cultural characteristics, and immigration status. The chapter also includes an important explanation of assessment goals and practices, including the recommendation to use multiple assessment tools.

Chapter 3, Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in the Classroom, provides valuable profiles of the linguistic and ethnic groups which make up the majority of the ELL population: Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, Native American, Haitian, Russian, and Arabic.

Chapter 4, Alternatives to Mainstreaming, consists of two main parts. The first half of the chapter summarizes leading theories and research on second language acquisition, with emphasis on the crucial distinction between acquisition of social communicative skills and proficiency in academic language comprehension and usage conventions. The second half of the chapter describes the main instructional programs designed to provide English language instruction for ELLs: Bilingual Education, English as a Second Language, and Sheltered Instruction. Although these programs are identified as "alternatives to mainstreaming" in the chapter's title, they are described and recommended as ways to prepare ELLs before being mainstreamed.

Chapter 5, The Integrated Development of Oral and Written Language, extends the previous chapter's discussion of second language acquisition to focus on second language literacy development. The chapter emphasizes the importance of integrating instruction of listening, speaking, reading, and writing, and discusses some links between spoken and written modalities. Also emphasized is the importance of first language literacy skills in the development of academic language proficiency in the second language.

Chapters 6 through 9 focus on instructional strategies for teaching different subject matters to ELLs. These chapters are largely unaltered from the first edition. Chapter 6, Instructional Strategies for LEP/ELL Students' Oral and Written English Language Development, presents basic strategies for teaching reading comprehension and the writing process. One change from the prior edition is excision of references to the 'whole language' approach to language arts. Although the authors have deleted this term, the text is otherwise virtually unchanged and the focus remains on holistic strategies.

Chapter 7, Integrating Language and Social Studies Learning, focuses on strategies for teaching vocabulary and for activating and enhancing students' background knowledge in this highly literacy-dependent subject area. Added to the material from the first edition is a thoughtful discussion of the demands of high stakes standardized testing and the especially hard impact that the standards movement has had on social studies curricula in recent years.

Chapter 8, Integrating Language and Science Learning, presents science as a process of discovery and critical thinking, more than a mastery of discrete facts. Hence, the authors offer science teaching strategies that focus largely on collaborative activities and development of cognitive and academic skills, and they discuss some parallels between these strategies and language acquisition strategies.

Chapter 9, Integrating Language and Mathematics Learning, focuses first on the linguistic structures typically found in mathematics textbooks and tests and how these differ from the structures common in other academic disciplines. This discussion is followed by an overview of concrete teaching strategies to develop problem-solving skills and to relate mathematical concepts to students' life experiences and to other academic content areas.

The book concludes with Chapter 10, The Role of Teachers in the Development of Linguistic, Cognitive and Academic Skills of LEP/ELL Students. This discussion summarizes many of the characteristics of effective teaching from previous chapters, with emphasis on how they relate to language development. It includes coverage of issues of concern to mainstream teachers, such as parental involvement and differentiation of instruction. The chapter concludes with an insightful discussion of teacher education and how to promote reflective teaching practices.

As mentioned at the opening of this review, this second edition of Language Minority Students in the Mainstream Classroom is a most timely addition to the pedagogical literature in the field of teaching English to speakers of other languages. As the authors point out in their introduction to Chapter 4, bilingual education and English as a second language (ESL) programs are not available in many school districts that serve ELLs. In fact, according to a 1999-2000 school survey, over 40 percent of U.S. teachers have ELLs in their classrooms, but only 12.5 percent of teachers have had some training in dealing with this student population (U.S. Department of Education, 2002). Furthermore, only 23 states require that specialized courses to serve the ELL population be staffed by teachers certified in this field, and seven states do not even have legislative provisions to provide specialized instructional programs for ELLs (McKnight & Antunez, 1999). These statistics underscore the urgent need for mainstream teachers to obtain the kind of information presented by Carrasquillo and Rodríguez in Language Minority Students in the Mainstream Classroom.

Many of the most recent texts about specialized educational practices for serving the ELL population focus on the continuing debate over bilingual education prompted by Propositions 227 in California and 203 in Arizona (e.g., Corson, 2001; Cummins, 2000). I commend Carrasquillo and Rodríguez for giving balanced explanations of both bilingual education and ESL programming without taking sides in the debate. While this debate deserves the attention, most school districts in the U.S. do not have sufficient ELLs of the same language background to make bilingual education programs feasible, yet these are the areas where the need for trained teachers is greatest. The New York Times has just reported that the fastest growth of ELL populations is in the South, Midwest, and Northwest regions (Zhao, 2002). For example, in a typical state like Virginia (where I teach), 85 percent of the school districts have fewer than 100 ELLs--at different grade levels, levels of English proficiency, with different native languages and literacy exposure. These small numbers, combined with the great diversity of needs, make it difficult to provide systematic instructional programs like bilingual education or ESL. For teachers in these school districts, the debate about whether to provide bilingual education or ESL has little relevance.

As a teacher educator, I have struggled to find a textbook suitable for my students who are not specializing in teaching ELLs but need a basic understanding of the educational needs of the ELLs they are apt to have in their classrooms. For this reason alone, the text by Carrasquillo and Rodriguez is extremely valuable. By not taking sides in the political debate over bilingual education, they provide an objective description of instructional programs and teaching practices that can help ELLs meet academic demands in classrooms where English is the language of instruction. I would also recommend the book for school administrators, especially those who are exploring or establishing programs to meet the needs of an increasing ELL population. There is very little technical terminology in the text, making it easily accessible to non-specialists.

I would not, however, recommend the text for training teachers who will specialize in teaching ELLs. For one thing, the book is very generalized, with little in-depth analysis of language teaching practices and little concrete support for theoretical claims. With the exception of the excellent discussion of mathematics language usage, there is almost no discussion of linguistic and discourse structures in the book, and some of the information on second language acquisition presented as research-based is still primarily theoretical.

However, my main criticism of the text is more mundane. I found it to be poorly edited, even to the point of occasional incoherence. For example, after several paragraphs detailing the "interdependence of different modalities" (pp. 80-81), the authors summarize, stating that "Since the four language processes have an independent relationship, the teaching of language should be approached from an integrated perspective" (p. 82). Many of the errors have been carried over from the first edition, although surprisingly the example just cited used the word "inseparable" in the first edition, instead of "independent," as revised for the second edition. For many readers the high number of typographical and mechanical errors (I counted over 65 in the first 130 pages) would seriously undermine the authority of the text.

In mitigation of the criticism, however, I would like to report that after using this text this summer in a course on cross-cultural education for non-specialists, my students reported that the book opened their minds to new ways of looking at language and language teaching that they had not previously considered and expanded their teaching repertoires for working with ELLs. Thus it certainly achieved the authors' objectives to increase awareness and understanding among mainstream classroom teachers.

Carrasquillo, Angela L. & Rodríguez, Vivian, 1996, Language Minority Students in the Mainstream Classroom. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Corson, David. 2001. Language Diversity in Education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Cummins, Jim. 2000. Language, Power and Pedagogy: Bilingual Children in the Crossfire. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

McKnight, Andrew & Atunez, Beth. 1999. State Survey of Legislative Requirements for Educating Limited English Proficient Students. Washington, DC: National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education.

National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education. 2001. No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 [P.L. 107-110], Title III: Language Instruction for Limited English Proficient and Immigrant Students, 107th Congress, 1st Session. Washington, DC: Author.

U. S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. 2002. Schools and Staffing Survey, 1999-2000: Overview of the Data for Public, Private, Public Charter, and Bureau of Indian Affairs Elementary and Secondary Schools (NCES 2002-313). Washington, DC: Author.

Zhao, Yilu. 2002. Wave of pupils lacking English strains schools. New York Times Education, retrieved 8/9/02 from

ABOUT THE REVIEWER Jo Tyler holds a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Florida and is Assistant Professor and coordinator of the graduate TESL program at Mary Washington College, Fredericksburg, Virginia.

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