English Language Learners: A Growing – Yet Underserved – Student Population
This issue of the Progress of Education Reform presents research and data on the educational issues related to the US English language learner (ELL) population. The brief calls for urgency in supporting the fastest growing population of students in K-12 schools. Key takeaways from the research and data described in the brief include:
Nearly one in 10 K-12 student in US public schools are English learners (and this number maybe systematically underestimated).
Long-term ELLs suffer worse outcomes than other English learners, and states generally do not monitor how long students are in English-learner programs.
Preschool programs are generally ill-equipped to help English learners, although cognitive research supports bilingual programs for preschoolers.
Many classroom teachers (pre-K-12 grade) receive little to no training in addressing ELL students’ needs.
Not only does this brief provide research-based recommendations to support ELLs, it also highlights approaches and lessons learned that can help inform state responses.
This brief is intended to help state education agencies (SEAs) consider policies that are supportive of their ELL students. English learners’ readiness for college and careers is a paramount issue for many states, and this resource does an excellent job in presenting facts on the achievement of ELLs and how states can support their English learners. For example, Illinois is the only state (at time of the brief’s publication) to extend the definition of ELLs to include pre-K students. This legislative move made English proficiency screenings, assessment, and teacher preparation and certification applicable to pre-K programs. Another example is how four states now require all classroom teachers complete training in English as a second language. These state examples, coupled with research-based findings, make this resource highly-readable and relevant.