Obama Administration Offers Guidelines, Enforcement for ELLs

ells

The Department of Justice and Administration of the Obama administration released guidelines on Wednesday highlighting the civil rights of nearly 5 million public school students learning English secondary to their own language. The new rules act as the first elucidated guidelines in 24 years to deal with the rights of English Language learning students and are issued 40 years after the Supreme Court ruled that schools must provide targeted help for them.

The letter comes in response to the increasing diversity of American public school students and amid public discourse regarding schools’ responsibility to meet the needs of thousands of non recorded immigrants who have crossed the border over the last year.

The 40 page guideline focus on helping schools figure out how to navigate teaching these students effectively, and equips them with a toolkit that aids districts to recognize the children needing help with English in a timely and reliable manner. The Obama administration announced that “it is crucial to the future of our nation that these students, and all students, have equal access to a high-quality education and the opportunity to achieve their full academic potential.”

Addressed to educators, the letter was approved by the Education Department’s assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon, and acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the Justice Department, Vanita Gupta.

The Obama administration highlighted how schools are necessitated to “provide English learners with language programs led by qualified teachers, integrate English learners as much as possible into mainstream classrooms and communicate with parents in a language they understand.”

Schools are required to connect English Language Learning (ELL) students with effective education plans that will boost their English proficiency as well as give them the same learning opportunities available to their peers. The guidelines also dictate schools must set the right balance between providing special care for ELL students and ensuring that they are not unnecessarily separated from their classmates. Qualified staff and resources must also be provided to ensure ESL students have uniform access to programs and activities.

Furthermore, both disability related and language teaching services should be offered to any ELL student suffering from any form of disabilities. Proper steps should be taken to recognize and identify students with disabilities and those with language inefficiencies. Parents who are less fluent in English should also be supplied with translated materials or translators to enable proper communication with school districts, writes Rebecca Klein of The Huffington post.

The programs must also be designed to prevent ELL students being hampered academically and allow them easy transition out of the program after they have gained fluency in English.

Tom Boasberg, superintendent of Denver Public Schools, praised the guidance.

“More than 40 percent of our students in Denver Public Schools are English language learners, and our community’s future depends in large measure on our success in providing them with the education they deserve. The guidance –- which provides clarity and synthesizes ELL requirements -– will be a useful resource as we continue to work to meet the needs of our English language learners.”

Studies show that currently 5 million children in the U.S are learning English, amounting to about 9 percent of all public school students in the States. A Migration Policy study based on 2012 Census data revealed that “the overall percentage for 6-to-21-year-olds enrolled in a K-12 program who were born outside of the United States is 4.7 percent, or 2.37 million students.”, writes Tony Lee of Breitbart.

A high number of  civil rights complaints concerning English learners still exist, along with a continuous achievement gap between fluent English speakers and those learning it as a second language, writes Emma Brown of The Washington Post.