What Educators Need to Know About the New California English Language Development Standards: Video Resources from WestEd

by Marianne Justus

Interested in helping English learners have conversations around complex texts? Looking for ways to engage students in analyzing how authors convey meanings through their language choices?

The new California English Language Development Standards (CA ELD Standards), designed to be used in tandem with the California Common Core State Standards for ELA/Literacy (CA CCSS), emphasize the importance of students’ engaging collaboratively with complex texts. The standards also provide guidance for educators to support students in learning English as a new language for a range of purposes. Unlike previous English development standards, the 2012 CA ELD Standards provide in-depth examples of how students progress along the language continuum toward academic language proficiency and describe the knowledge, skills, and abilities that all students need to be able to succeed in school and beyond.


The Framework explains that the standards are built upon three critical premises, or areas of focus:



Using English Purposefully is an essential goal underlying all of the CA ELD Standards. English learners must understand that language is a resource for making meaning and that there are different purposes for using English, such as describing, explaining, persuading, and retelling. The goal is to help English learners learn to make informed choices about using language resources (such as vocabulary, grammatical structures, text organization) based on discipline, topic, audience, task, and purpose.



Interacting in Meaningful Ways is a section that is further divided into three communicative modes: Collaborative, engaging in dialogue with others; Interpretive, in comprehending and analyzing written and spoken texts; and Productive, for example, creating oral presentations and written texts.


  Learning About How English Works is the third section within the CA ELD Standards that provides guidance on how teachers can teach about the structure of language. This section of the standards is organized according to key language processes: Structuring Cohesive Texts, Expanding and Enriching Ideas, and Connecting and Condensing Ideas.  

The companion to the standards, the English Language Arts/English Language Development Framework for California Public Schools (ELA/ELD Framework) provides extensive information including theories of language learning, fantastic vignettes illustrating instruction in ELA/literacy and ELD, and examples of how schools and communities can work together to provide all students with a world-class education. Although designed for California, educators across the nation can benefit from reading this framework.

Teachers can support students in achieving all of these critical aspects of the ELD standards by providing multiple opportunities for students to collaborate with their peers and to interact with complex texts, and by drawing students’ attention to how language works across the disciplines.

WestEd created seven classroom videos for the California Department of Education to support learning about the new standards. Collaborative learning — an essential component of the CA ELD Standards — can be observed in all of the classroom videos in our new Raising the Bar video collection. The videos also show classes explicitly focusing on the language features of different text types, interacting in meaningful ways around complex texts, and developing their understanding of the various ways English works across disciplines. Students can be seen discussing complex texts with varying levels of support from their teachers, looking closely at how sentences are structured to convey meaning, and reconstructing texts with peers to deepen their understanding of both the content and the structure of texts. Watch how these teachers strategically support their students’ engaging in meaningful discussions about texts, and having fun in the process.


ELA/ELL Content Specialist, WestEd