Level Up Your English Language Learners 

Speak Agent is designed by ESL teachers and ELLs for ESL teachers and ELLs. It uses evidence-based strategies; multisensory supports; and game-based, project-based, and collaborative learning to boost student motivation, achievement, and expectations.

ELLs Need a New Strategy

Only one in 20 ELLs achieve Proficient level by eighth grade on the NAEP Math, Reading, and Science assessments (NAEP, 2017). Less than one in five ELLs even achieve Basic, which is the lowest level on the NAEP assessment, compared to 7 in 10 non-ELLs (ibid.). And, nationally, less than one in four ELLs are able to exit English Learner programs each year (EDFacts, 2016). The past decade has not seen significant improvement in outcomes nationally. The current strategy is not working. While many individual localities and teachers may experience varying degrees of improvement, how do we scale and sustain success?

Help Your ELLs Outperform in Math, Science, and ELA

No scalable intervention has produced evidence of promise for ELLs to learn the language of STEM—until now. With just three hours of instruction using Speak Agent, for example, students in an NSF-sponsored study were able to increase targeted science concept knowledge between 10% and 15% versus 3% for a control group. Other research found even greater gains (31%) in reading with a similar dosage.

Speak Agent Works Because It Is Evidence-Based 

Proctor, August, Carlo, & Snow (2005) found that academic vocabulary was the most significant factor in general academic text comprehension among ELLs. Another study (Arya, Hiebert, & Pearson, 2011) further found lexical complexity (of academic vocabulary) to be the only significant factor in ELL comprehension of texts. Many leading language, math, and reading ed tech products that claim to include ESL supports treat academic language learning as a rote memorization task. A shallow approach limited to dictionary definitions, picture matching, and flashcards is typical. Speak Agent, on the other hand, goes far beyond isolated vocabulary practice and rote learning because academic language is nobody's primary language. It requires a language development approach that includes reading, writing, speaking, and listening, among other skills and learning modes (Graves, 2009; Nisbet & Austin, 2013). It requires collaboration and communication among learners (Thorne & Black, 2007) rather than the isolated independent practice too often promoted by education technologies. With Speak Agent, students engage in dialogic reading, cloze activities, word and syntax games, and other types of guided, independent, and peer collaborative language practice to develop word comprehension in varied contexts. This variety of contexts and modes is helpful for understanding nuanced meanings and fluency with science texts (Bravo et al., 2007; Graves, 2009; Nisbet & Austin, 2013; Peregoy & Boyle, 2013).
Another major issue is that other leading products cannot be readily customized. This limits their efficacy to highly controlled test environments. Speak Agent, on the other hand, works in a real-world classroom setting. Why? It is well established that the efficacy of computer-assisted instruction depends upon alignment with classroom curricula (Cassady, Smith, & Thomas, 2018). The learning science clearly shows that academic language learning requires exposure through oral and written resources in multiple contexts aligned to the curriculum (Peregoy & Boyle, 2013). And that is exactly what you get with Speak Agent: a platform that tailors the content precisely to your scope, sequence, and pacing.

Moreover, with Speak Agent, content updates are disseminated instantly. With the Speak Agent platform, you can modify digital curricular content and release a new version the same day so that students are always learning current content. You can add new texts and media resources around contemporary events (like a hurricane), new scientific findings (like Pluto's demotion to a dwarf planet), or new pedagogy (like a new math technique).

Effortlessly Strengthen ESSA Monitoring

Speak Agent's formative assessment and digital portfolio tools will help improve ESSA monitoring without any addition burden on teachers or administrators. Measure targeted academic language growth in English, STEM, social studies, and other subjects throughout the year. And, collect evidence of learning using digital student portfolios that show work in descriptive context. None of it requires any data entry—students simply learn using assigned digital activities and Speak Agent handles the rest!

Integrate Speak Agent Into Any Program Model(s)

Speak Agent supports any ESL / ESOL program model, as noted in the table below. Here are two examples:

  • NewcomersJenkins, Stein, & Wysocki (1984) originally found that students need at least six exposures to new words in order to acquire them. Schmitt's (2008) later research found that acquisition with any less than 8 to 10 exposures "would be surprising." For newcomer ELLs, academic language exposure and practice time must be doubled (Peregoy & Boyle, 2013), which means at least 16 to 20 exposures are needed. This suggests significant practice is needed. That is exactly what Speak Agent delivers through eight different learning modes. In addition, Speak Agent also provides narration, rich visuals, leveled texts, and other supports perfect for newcomer ELLs. 
  • Bilingual and Dual-Language: Speak Agent offers multi-language support for any program—or any learnerthat requires content in any language, whether it's Spanish, French, Chinese, Haitian Creole, or any world language, dialect, or accent. In fact, the central Texas district that ran a recent NSF-sponsored study of Speak Agent used an early-exit bilingual program. (Eighty percent of the study participants spoke Spanish at home.) All science content was taught in Spanish during Fall 2017 and then switched to 100% English in Spring 2018. In Fall 2017, all Speak Agent digital content and the pre and post tests were in Spanish, whereas in Spring 2018 all were in English. Both periods and both languages saw significant gains in science concept acquisition at p < .01.

The following program model typology is adapted from Peregoy & Boyle (2013):

Speak Agent Support Program Type Language(s) of Instruction Language Development Goals Student Population Use of Primary Language (L1)
Yes Mainstream or General Education Instruction in English. English proficiency All students No L1 support
Yes Structured English Immersion Instruction in English with pull-out or plug-in ESL instruction. English proficiency All students L1 support
Yes Sheltered Instruction Instruction in English with sheltering support for academic content learning. English proficiency for academic use ELs L1 support
Yes Newcomer Program Intensive instruction in English for one year or less. Students separated from mainstream classrooms. transition to English instruction in sheltered or mainstream classrooms ELs who are recent immigrants or SIFE L1 support; family component; modified classroom instruction
Yes Early Exit Transitional Bilingual Program L1 used to teach academic content as a bridge to English. English increasingly used to 2nd or 3rd grade or for 2–3 years in grades 7–12. transition to English instruction ELs Students taught in both L1 and English; transfer to English-only programs after 2–3 years
Yes Late Exit Transitional Bilingual Program L1 used to teach academic content. English increasingly used to 5th or 6th grade or for 4–5 years in grades 7–12. transition to English instruction ELs Students transfer to English-only programs after 4–6 years
Yes Maintenance Bilingual Program L1 used to teach literacy and academic content along with English. L1 maintenance and English proficiency ELs and monolingual English-speakers L1 sustained along with gradual development of English
Yes Dual Language Program L1 and English used to teach literacy and academic content. Full bilingualism and biliteracy for social and academic purposes ELs and monolingual English-speakers Students use both languages to learn language and academic content in two languages.

Please see our References page for a full A to Z listing of all research cited on speakagent.com.