Education Policy

English Language Learner Education

Public schools have a responsibility to educate all students who enter their doors. This naturally includes children who arrive at school speaking a language other than English.

Many educators have the training and skills they need to help students learn English while they are also learning English. But in far too many schools, they do not. And while some federal, state and district policies are in place to support English learner education, other policies are barriers or are woefully underfunded.

As a result, English learners struggle to succeed.


Resource Highlights

Framework for Effective Instruction of Secondary English Language Learners – This IDRA research-based framework provides guidance for design, implementation and evaluation of an effective English learner program.

The Federal ELL Toolkit – Potentially a Great Resource… but Beware of Misuse – The U.S. Department of Education released a new, comprehensive English Learner Toolkit, which is a compilation of the latest research findings, current policy and resources or “tools,” such as sample surveys and assessments, for districts and schools to use in addressing the educational needs of their English learners. When used in its entirety, the kit will be a great new resource for districts and schools to provide a quality education for English learners as required. But, the toolkit also may be misused to justify practices that do not protect the civil rights of English learners or that promote detrimental programs. IDRA’s letter highlights potential areas for abuse of the toolkit.

IDRA’s Education of English Language Learners in U.S. and Texas Schools – Where We Are, What We Have Learned and Where We Need to Go from Here – A 2009 Update gives an overview of increasing numbers of ELL students, distribution of ELL students, increasing diversity and varying languages, instructional programs provided, and funding provided to ELL programs along with recommendations. Read Education of English Language Learners in U.S. and Texas Schools – Where We Are, What We Have Learned and Where We Need to Go from Here – A 2009 Update (pdf) or order your copy for $7.

U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Arizona ’s funding for programs serving English learners – Read a statement by Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, IDRA president and CEO, regarding the ruling and a summary of what the court said. Other resources by META and MALDEF are available here as well.

National Research

Good Schools and Classrooms for Children Learning English: A Guide – IDRA rigorously and methodically studied exemplary bilingual education programs in schools across the nation as determined by English learner students’ academic achievement. As a result, we identified the 25 common characteristics that contribute to high academic performance of students served by bilingual education programs.

IDRA Policy Issues Texas – Instruction for English Learners Must be Bolstered

• Laws requiring bilingual education programs in elementary schools must remain, and exceptions must be strongly discouraged.

• Secondary programs for ELs should be revised to require sheltered English instruction in the content areas and training for content area teachers to enable them to adapt their instruction.

• The state should modify its procedures for monitoring EL performance by disaggregating EL performance data for each level of schooling.

• New immigrant students, including refugees, equally deserve a high quality education.

Texas Research

Low Funding for Educating ELLs Affects Students Across Texas – Symposium Proceedings – In June 2015, IDRA released the proceedings report of the IDRA José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellows Program symposium focusing on education of English language learners. The report shares key insights from the robust discussion among the participants in IDRA’s ELL symposium along with the research study conducted by Dr. Jimenez-Castellanos. The report also provides a set of recommendations useful for policymakers, educators, community and business leaders and parents. See the proceedings report through the dynamic digital reader below.

Texas Testimony Highlights

Texas Must Seize the Opportunity to Improve the Education for English Language Learners, Testimony of IDRA on English Language Learners – Testimony of IDRA on English Learners – Presented by Roy Johnson, M.S., IDRA Director of Support Services and Evaluation, before the Texas Senate Education, Committee, February 10, 2016

Improved Learning Opportunities for English Learner Students Resulting from Increasing the Bilingual/ESL WeightIDRA Testimony presented by David Hinojosa, J.D., National Director of Policy, Before the Texas House Public Education Committee July 25, 2017

Determining the True Costs of Educating Underserved Students – Cost Study of Bilingual/ESL and Compensatory Education Invited Testimony of IDRA Presented by David Hinojosa, J.D., IDRA National Director of Policy before the Texas House Public Education Committee, March 7, 2017

Listen to “Reflections on Bilingual Education Today and Beyond” IDRA Classnotes Podcast Episode 65 

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