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Question: Instructional and Assessment Challenges for English Learners in the Next Generation Core Content State Standards Era

23 Sep 2023,6:44 PM


To date, 45 states have adopted the "Next Generation Core Content State Standards" for both English/Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics. One state, Minnesota, has adopted only the ELA Standards. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, "The percentage of public school students in the United States who were English learners was higher (10 percent, or an estimated 4.7 million students) than in 2002–03 (9 percent, or an estimated 4.1 million students).
"In 2010-11, states in the West had the highest percentages of ELL students in their public schools. In 8 states, 10 percent or more of public school students were English learners—Oregon, Hawaii, Alaska, Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, and California (California data was imputed from 2009-10 data)—with ELL students constituting 29 percent of public school enrollment in California. Thirteen states and the District of Columbia had percentages of ELL public school enrollment between 6 and 9.9 percent. In addition to the District of Columbia, these states were Oklahoma, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Nebraska, North Carolina, Virginia, Arizona, Utah, New York, Kansas, Illinois, Washington, and Florida. The percentage of ELL students in public schools was less than 3 percent in 13 states; this percentage was between 3 and 5.9 percent in 16 states. The percentage of ELL students in public schools was higher in 2010-11 than in 2009-10 in just over half of the states (28 states), with the largest increase in percentage points occurring in Nevada (3 percentage points) and the largest decrease in percentage points occurring in Minnesota (2 percentage points)."
Write a 2-3 page paper describing what you believe might be some of the instructional and/or assessment challenges that teachers and English learners may encounter. Remember that the Next Generation Core Content State Standards apply to most public school students in the United States. Conclude by identifying instructional strategies you might consider when teaching English learners who are also identified as learners with special needs.




The adoption of the Next Generation Core Content State Standards (NGCCSS) in 45 states for English/Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics has ushered in a new era of education in the United States. However, this educational transformation has brought forth unique instructional and assessment challenges, especially for English learners (ELLs). In this paper, we will explore the challenges faced by teachers and ELL students within the NGCCSS framework and discuss instructional strategies that can be employed to address the needs of English learners with special needs.

Instructional Challenges for ELLs

  1. Language Proficiency:

    • ELLs often struggle with language proficiency, making it challenging to grasp complex academic content embedded in the NGCCSS. Language barriers can impede their comprehension of ELA and Mathematics concepts.
    • Teachers must find ways to scaffold instruction, providing support through visual aids, simplified language, and opportunities for interaction to enhance understanding.
  2. Content Complexity:

    • The NGCCSS sets high academic expectations, which can be overwhelming for ELLs. The complexity of the curriculum may lead to frustration and disengagement.
    • Teachers must break down complex content into manageable chunks and use real-world examples to make abstract concepts more accessible to ELLs.
  3. Limited Prior Knowledge:

    • Many ELL students come from diverse cultural backgrounds and may have limited exposure to the content covered in NGCCSS. This can result in a lack of prior knowledge, affecting their ability to connect new information.
    • Teachers should tap into students' cultural backgrounds, using culturally relevant materials and experiences to bridge gaps in prior knowledge.

Assessment Challenges for ELLs

  1. Language-Based Assessments:

    • Traditional assessments often rely heavily on language skills, such as reading comprehension and written expression, which can disadvantage ELLs.
    • Teachers and schools must develop alternative assessment methods that allow ELLs to demonstrate their understanding through visuals, presentations, or hands-on activities.
  2. Timed Assessments:

    • ELLs may require more time to process and respond to assessment items due to language challenges. Timed assessments can lead to anxiety and inaccurate results.
    • Teachers should consider providing extended time or using untimed assessments to assess ELLs fairly.
  3. Misalignment with Instruction:

    • If assessments do not align with the instructional approach, ELLs may struggle to perform well. Misalignment can lead to misunderstandings about students' actual proficiency levels.
    • Regularly assess and adjust instructional methods to ensure alignment with NGCCSS standards and assessment practices.

Instructional Strategies for English Learners with Special Needs

Addressing the needs of English learners with special needs requires a multifaceted approach that takes into account both language acquisition and special education considerations:

  1. Differentiated Instruction:

    • Implement differentiated instruction to cater to various learning styles and abilities within the ELL population.
    • Provide individualized support based on students' strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Collaborative Teaching:

    • Foster collaboration between ESL (English as a Second Language) and special education teachers to create inclusive learning environments.
    • Share expertise and resources to meet the diverse needs of ELLs with special needs.
  3. Visual Supports:

    • Incorporate visual aids, such as graphic organizers, charts, and diagrams, to enhance comprehension and communication for ELLs with special needs.
    • Visual supports can facilitate learning and assessment.
  4. Assistive Technology:

    • Leverage assistive technology tools and software to accommodate the needs of ELLs with special needs, such as speech-to-text software and language translation tools.
    • Ensure that technology is accessible and user-friendly.
  5. Individualized Education Plans (IEPs):

    • Develop and implement IEPs that are tailored to the unique needs of ELLs with special needs.
    • Collaborate with parents, special education professionals, and ESL specialists to create effective IEPs.


The implementation of the Next Generation Core Content State Standards presents both instructional and assessment challenges for English learners, particularly those with special needs. It is crucial for educators to recognize these challenges and employ strategies that support the diverse needs of ELLs. By scaffolding instruction, using alternative assessment methods, and collaborating across disciplines, teachers can create inclusive learning environments where English learners with special needs can thrive and reach their academic potential within the NGCCSS framework.

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