The education of Jaime Capellan

My latest freelance project, The Education of Jaime Capellan: English Learner Success in California Schools, is up on the Lexington Institute site. (Yes, the name is a take-off on Leo Rosten’s Hyman Kaplan.) It’s a look at students who start school without proficient English skills but master English in elementary school and go on to outperform native English speakers.

I was surprised to learn that students from non-English-speaking homes who’ve achieved English proficiency are significantly more likely to take college-prep courses in high school than native speakers; they’re also more likely to pass the graduation exam on the first try. Of course, they’re a select group.

Unfortunately, about half of “English Learners” become “lifers.” They speak English but don’t read or write well enough to be considered proficient. And they do very poorly in school.

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Comments

  1. Catch Thirty-Three says:

    Is this intended to be a full-length book?

  2. Heavens, no. It’s a booklet. (You can order a copy from Lexington.)

  3. It is amazing to me that when I teach Grammar to my second language learners, many outperform their native speaking counterparts. The reason? They want to understand “how” English works. They do struggle with more esoteric concepts that is taught when I teach literary concepts, but even then, they will ask questions to try to understand. Too many of my native speakers are very passive when it comes to their learning, even though I do try to get them more involved.

  4. Sometimes when I hear educators talk about English Learners, they get this little twitch in their neck and contort their face like their aliens from another planet who all need the exact same thing to succeed. Usually the prescription includes bilingual education, English Language Development, and lots and lots of time. Now, for some English Language Learners that may be just the ticket for success. However, the reality is that English Learners are as diverse as any other group of learners that happen to have one common element (in this case a second language at home). What English Learners need – get ready for the magic bullet – is expert instruction on an individual basis (some like to call this differentiation). I’ve observed, like your case study, that some English Learners blossom like wildfire to English proficiency in less than two years, while others take longer and even bog down at some points. Most of these English Learners have very little in common with each other. They are simply learners with strengths and weaknesses who need professional, dedicated educators to find the strategies that will help them make progress toward proficiency. Those English Learners who quickly become proficient in English also have the added benefit of a second language skill that gives them a leg up on the English only crowd. Frankly, I’d gladly take a whole school of English Learners if offered, because they have all the potential of any other child, and maybe a little more.

    Cheers

  5. “They are simply learners with strengths and weaknesses who need professional, dedicated educators to find the strategies that will help them make progress toward proficiency.”

    Uhmm… is this a gimme? Isn’t this what ALL students need?

    “Frankly, I’d gladly take a whole school of English Learners if offered, because they have all the potential of any other child, and maybe a little more.”

    Could you expound on this? What exactly is their “little more [potential]”? I’ll admit, I’m half-way to being offended by this…