Why Research Matters?

Since 1968, when the Bilingual Education Act was passed, enormous advances have been made in understanding how languages are acquired, how language learning intersects with academic achievement, and how these lessons can be applied effectively in the classroom. These research findings – both practical and theoretical – have laid a solid foundation for the development of bilingual and English-as-a-second-language (ESL) education.

Experience has shown that well designed and well implemented school programs can make a critical difference for students. The stakes are especially high for children who are English language learners (ELLs), who must master academic content and a new language at the same time. Failure in school at a young age often has lifelong consequences.

So it is essential that educational programs for ELLs reflect best practices, as documented by the latest research. This is the only way these children will have an equal chance to succeed. Not only do educators need to understand and support research-based programs; so do policymakers and members of the public.

Relevant research also includes broader social, historical, and political trends, all of which have an impact on how schools, communities, and public officials respond to the needs of ELLs.

The purpose of this section is threefold:

  • To offer a basic introduction to research affecting the education of English language learners.
  • To address common misconceptions that affect public opinion and policy making. And
  • To highlight significant research developments for educational practitioners and advocates.


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