Alison Bailey Co-Authors National Report on English Learners and STEM

Latest publications include National Academies of Sciences report, books on language acquisition and opening the pipeline to STEM for ELs.

Although she succeeded in publishing three new books in 2018, Alison Bailey says that her co-authorship of a new national report titled, “English Learners in STEM Subjects: Transforming Classrooms, Schools, and Lives,” was “a pure privilege and capped off a very busy couple of years.”

“The report is a state-of-the-art review of the STEM field regarding EL’s education by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine,” notes Bailey. “There is almost no research on the technology and engineering piece of that, it’s nearly all science and math. The report argues that many English learners are simply not getting access to the pipeline for STEM subjects, especially at the high school level when things become more specialized.”

Bailey, whose research centers on the assessment and experiences of English learners (ELs) in PreK-12, contributed to several introductory chapters and served as lead on the classroom assessment portions of the report. Among the NASEM report’s findings is the fact that decisions concerning EL’s STEM achievement can be made more accurate when they are based on multiple sources of information and when test scores are combined with other, qualitative forms of assessment best suited to ELs’ STEM learning. Studies that the report reviewed found that static and dynamic visual aids, collaborative tasks, and dividing tasks into multiple parts yielded fairer and more valid interpretations of EL student performance in STEM disciplines.

“Since 2001, with the passage of No Child Left Behind, the purpose of acquiring English was brought closer tothe academic subjects and why schools should care,” says Bailey. “This nexus of language and content areas popularized the use of the term ‘academic language’ … and needing alignment between what was going on in English language development and what was going on in actual classrooms, whether it was math or science, English language arts or social studies.”

Professor Bailey notes that the report can be instrumental in helping teachers, administrators and others to propel EL students onto a STEM-ready trajectory for college and employment, a path that has until now been extremely limited if not downright prohibitive.

“The whole EL experience often excluded students from [STEM] classrooms because they were pulled out [of class] for English language development during math and science,” she says. “And then there were students who were not necessarily getting access to high-quality, well-taught elective classes.”

The report “English Learners in STEM Subjects: Transforming Classrooms, Schools, and Lives” was available December 2018 and has held a public event on Jan. 14 ,at the National Academies’ Beckman Center in Irvine, California and has hosted a series of webinars; a webinar on the review of assessment of ELs in STEM subjects was held on Feb. 22.

Professor Bailey’s co-edited “Language, Literacy, and Learning in the STEM Disciplines: How Language Counts for English Learners,” (With Carolyn A. Maher and Louise C. Wilkinson. New York: Routledge, 2018) was published in February of last year. Bailey says she and her editors deliberately sought contributions to the volume from nationally-renowned colleagues in math and science education, rather than solely practitioners in English language learning so models of collaboration across language and STEM subjects could be made.

“We wanted it to be firmly about including the discipline expertise, so that [people in the disciplines] would want to read it,” she asserts. “Some of them were not researchers around English learners, so we made it broad enough. It was a new kind of challenge, [having] science and math educators think and write about language.”

“Self-Regulation in Learning: The Role of Language and Formative Assessment,” (Cambridge: Harvard Education Press, 2018) was published by Bailey last April, co-authored with former UCLA colleague Margaret Heritage.  Bailey notes humorously that “Self-Regulation in Learning” was written “so we could take a break from writing a different book we were also working on.”

“This fun, slender book was something of a sideline we’d been discussing for a while, where we had talked about … students being able to leverage each other as language resources, and for other kinds of collaborative learning – having them be autonomous from the teacher and self-regulated,” says Bailey. “This book showcases great classroom interaction data. We pulled moments from up and down the grades, different content areas – where videoed interactions showed that when children are self-regulated … then they  have agency to create their own and each other’s language-learning experiences and opportunities throughout the day.”

Professor Bailey’s third book, “Progressing Students’ Language Day by Day,” (Thousand Oaks: Corwin, 2019) was also co-edited with Heritage and released last fall.The volume was written for classroom teachers and their principals and isa culmination of her Dynamic Language Learning Progressions (DLLP) research and development which was conducted with UCLA Lab School students and teachers as well as with several Los Angeles public schools and schools in a rural, predominantly EL community in California’s Central Coast region. The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Education and the WIDA Consortium at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, with Bailey serving as principal investigator on the project.

To read the report, “English Learners in STEM Subjects: Transforming Classrooms, Schools, and Lives,” visit this link for The National Academies Press.