As the number of immigrant youth who are concurrently

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As the number of immigrant youth who are concurrently ELLs surge in the nation's schools,the political climate is calling for an increasing push toward an English-only educational sys-tem, as demonstrated by the passage of restrictive language policies in states such as California,Arizona, and Massachusetts in recent years (Crawford, 1999; Garcia, 2005). These policiesrequire ELLs to be taught "overwhelmingly" in English, often with few language supports toassist them in accessing the high-level academic vocabulary utilized in content-area classes.Due to such policies, ELLs, though often highly motivated to leam, struggle to comprehendthe school culture and the dominant language utilized. ELLs are commonly enrolled in classesthat require an understanding of content specific grade-level academic vocabulary and concepts,though many are still learning to communicate basic ideas and needs. Lucas (1996) assertedthat for many students "the inability to communicate ideas and feelings confidently can result inconfusion, frustration, anger, and alienation" (p. 2).In addition, the cultural value system immigrant youth bring to the new environment is notappreciated in an English-only schooling environment in the same manner as the dominantschool culture, making it difficult for many to negotiate the methods in which schools operate.Lucas (1996) stated "immigrant students must balance the value systems of their native culture,ever present at home, with those of the dominant culture, which prevail at school" (p. 2). Theconsiderable difficulties facing ELLs, such as a lack of comprehension within an English-onlyeducational system coupled with issues understanding or connecting to the American school sys-tem, regularly causes English language leamers to achieve at lower academic levels than theirnative English speaking counterparts, therefore maintaining the already dramatic achievementgap between English-only students and ELLs. It is crucial that educators utilize culturally respon-sive strategies to assist students in connecting to and accessing the concepts and curricula withwhich they are being educated.One of the most important aspects in teaching ELLs is tbe sociocultural context; stu-dents'acquisition of academic vocabulary and content skills in English is strengthened byusing students' primary or heritage language as means to facilitate students' acquisition ofacademic vocabulary and content skills in English (Garcia, 2005; Gay, 2010). Language isa social construct and is heavily influenced by the cultural group with whom one identifies,and therefore educators must consider students' home cultures and languages in developingand conveying class curricula and daily lessons. As Garcia (2005) asserted, "if the cultureof the classroom negates a child's first language and accompanying representations of thechild's world, it negates the tools the child has used to construct a basic cognitive framework"(p.33).

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