Dept of Education Offers New Guidance for English Learners

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

English learners have been given a boost by the US Department of Education by way of non-regulatory guidance released to assist states, schools, and districts in providing adequate services to improve proficiency of the English language and academic achievement for ELs, according to a release from the Department.

The move is being accomplished through the support of Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The guidance is aimed at ensuring that ELs receive the services needed to be college and career ready.

“In too many places across the country, English learners get less access to quality teachers, less access to advanced coursework, and less access to the resources they need to succeed. Together, we can change that reality,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, we have an opportunity to give students the gift of bilingualism and of multilingualism so they are prepared for college and career with a better sense of themselves, their community, their future, and a better appreciation for our diversity as a country.”

The guidance will include information about Title III funds available to ELs and the distribution and design for language instruction educational programs. It will also offer information on engaging families, parents, and community.

Information will be included on the types of EL populations, such as early learners, former ELs, students who are immigrants, and ELs with disabilities. Rights of ELs will be clarified as related to federal civil rights law supports and services. And a list of resources and publications for those who work with ELs will be made available to educators.

The Every Student Succeeds Act is a commitment to equal opportunity for all students. The Department’s website explains that the ESSA was signed by President Obama on December 10, 2015, with the Obama administration understanding that the previous version of the law, the No Child Left Behind Act, needed updating because its prescriptive requirements had become unwieldy for educators and schools.

A better law was created and focused clearly on preparing all students for successful college experiences and thriving careers. “All students” meant young people of any race, income, zip code, disability, home language, or background.

Susan Jones writes for the CNS News that in the last several decades, ELs have become the fastest-growing demographic in US schools. Currently, the Education Department reports that they make up almost 10% of the American student population. This percentage amounts to roughly 4.8 million English learners.

The Title III funds may also be used to enhance the skills and knowledge-base of educators who serve ELs.

The DoE points out that Title III funds are available to supplement, not replace, the programs that are required to be provided to ELs by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974, and any other state or local legislation.

Local education agencies (LEAs) must ensure that preparation and professional development for teachers of ELs and school leaders improve instruction, increase teachers’ and school leaders’ ability to offer an effective curriculum for ELs, increase students’ English proficiency and improve ELs’ academic performance.