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Legal and Pedagogical Contexts of English Learners: The Legality of Linguistic Isolation and Developmental Needs

Mon, April 11, 4:30 to 6:30pm, Convention Center, Floor: Level One, Room 144 C


This paper examines the legal and constitutional claims of English learners for educational opportunity in light of scholarly findings on the linguistic development of secondary and elementary students. Through a review of legal rulings, statutes, and social scientific findings of language acquisition, we argue that the legal construction of the rights of English learners does not take sufficient account of the differing time horizons of elementary and secondary students. The legal admonition to minimize the linguistic isolation of ELs requires schools to sacrifice grade level academic content to focus on language acquisition. The paper argues for a legal theory that acknowledges the linguistic developmental trajectory of English learners while simultaneously focusing on opportunities to learn.