Education scholar Okhee Lee calls for alignment of language and STEM standards to assist English learners

NEW YORK– Oct. 7, 2019 – Okhee Lee, a professor of childhood education at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University, is on a mission to develop English language proficiency standards that would end disparities in STEM subjects for English learners (ELs) in public schools. Lee is a leading scholar recognized for her work in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education with diverse student groups.

Over the course of her academic career, Lee’s publications in Educational Researcher, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), have put her on the national stage for taking on a range of controversial issues that affect diverse student groups across the nation. In her latest studypublished this week, Lee takes another step toward her goal to bring to the table estranged factions within EL education and between EL education and STEM subjects.

English learners make up the fastest growing subset of the U.S. student population. According to the most recent statistics, English learners constituted 9.6 percent of the public-school population, or 4.9 million students (National Center for Education Statistics, 2019).

Lee discusses the significance of her study, “Aligning English Language Proficiency Standards With Content Standards: Shared Opportunity and Responsibility Across English Learner Education and Content Areas,” in a new videoon the AERA website.

“There is a problem in our public schools that English language proficiency standards do not align with the language-intensive content standards in STEM subjects. In effect, we are holding English learners back from their ability to achieve the rigorous content standards expected of them to be ready for college or careers when graduating from high school. It is my hope that scholars from EL education and STEM subjects come to the table and agree on English language proficiency standards that will serve to uplift these children rather than hold them back,” Lee said.

The AERA, the authority in education trends, awarded Lee in 2019 with its Division K Innovations in Research on Equity and Social Justice in Teacher Education Award.

Okhee Leeis an award-winning education scholar. She is widely known for advancing research, policy, and practice that simultaneously promote science and language learning for all students, including English learners. A popular speaker, Lee continues to be a keynote at national and state conferences.

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