The U.S. Department of Education today released non-regulatory guidance to help states, districts and schools provide effective services to improve the English language proficiency and academic achievement of English learners (ELs) through Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The guidance is an effort to ensure that students who are English learners receive the high-quality services they need 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.”
In the 2014-15 school year, more than 4.8 million English learners were enrolled in U.S. schools in grades K-12. English learners comprise nearly 10 percent of the student population nationwide, a figure that has more than doubled in the past few decades, and in many schools, districts and states, English learners are an even higher percentage of the student population. Estimates suggest that this number may be even higher for learners under the age of six. For example, nearly a third of children in Head Start programs are classified as dual language learners. There is also a growing body of research that makes clear that students who are bilingual have advantages, not only in their literacy development, but in the development of problem-solving skills and other areas of cognition in addition to a potential for greater earnings over their lifetimes.
The members of the National Council of State Title III Directors noted, “The Every Student Succeeds Act provides states with an opportunity to consider their unique local contexts in developing plans to meet the diverse needs of English Learners. This is an exciting time for states to lead the work to ensure that ELs are college and career ready, and that educational systems are poised to meet the academic and affective needs of English Learners and engage families and communities to maximize educational outcomes for children who are English Learners.”
The aim of this guidance is to help states, districts and schools improve educational outcomes for ELs and immigrant children, and youth by promoting effective, research-based, educational language instruction programs. Additionally, recognizing the diversity of the EL population, the guidance touches upon distinct populations of ELs (e.g., EL students with disabilities and long-term ELs) as well as supports ELs in early learning programs. This guidance will help inform the work done to all states and to school districts receiving Title III funds as they transition to the new requirements under ESSA.
This guidance includes information and resources for state, district, and school personnel, including:
- Use of Title III funds to serve ELs;
- Design and delivery of language instruction educational programs, which include educators of ELs;
- Key information on family, parent and community engagement;
- Key information on distinct populations of ELs, including early learners, former ELs, immigrant students, and ELs who are also students with disabilities;
- Clarifications of the rights ELs have under federal civil rights law related to supports and services;
- A list of publications and resources for administrators and educators who work with ELs