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Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE)

PIs: Dr. Gita Martohardjono and Dr. Elaine Klein

This 2-year study of 98 Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE) revealed that these students have typically developing oral language skills in their home language, but that their academic skills in that same home language are underdeveloped. Unlike other English Language Learners (ELLs), SIFE need instruction in native language literacy in order to help develop second-language literacy. Two reports of findings and recommendations (Klein & Martohardjono, 2006, 2009) established the need for assessments measuring native language literacy skills in SIFE. In partnership with New York City, and then New York State, the Second Language Acquisition Lab developed the Multilingual Literacy SIFE Screener (MLS). Authentic texts and comprehension questions determine the academic language abilities students have in reading comprehension and math upon arrival to the United States. Automatically generated teacher-facing reports provide teachers with specific information about students’ strengths and weaknesses with the goal of facilitating appropriate scaffolding practices. The MLS is now available throughout New York State and serves student from 16 home languages.

In addition to the MLS, New York State has also funded the initiative Bridges to Academic Success: an accelerated, pre-ninth grade program for recently-arrived immigrant teens with low native-language literacy. Its foundation is a research-based, year-long curriculum that incorporates theories of ESL and bilingual education and values each student’s unique wealth of knowledge and experience. Its goal is to prepare students for high school both culturally and academically in order to reduce the drop-out rate and improve academics for its participants. It is currently operating in select schools in New York City and Western New York State.

Klein, E., & Martohardjono, G. (2006). Understanding the student with interrupted formal education (SIFE): A study of SIFE skills, needs and achievement (Phase I). New York: New York City Department of Education.

Klein, E., & Martohardjono, G. (2009). Understanding the student with interrupted formal education (SIFE): A study of SIFE skills, needs and achievement (Phase II). New York: New York City Department of Education.

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