Student Access to Instruction Education of English Language Learners
All students should have access to excellent and equitable education; for students learning English, this means that schools must provide appropriate, high quality, research-based language programs at all grade levels.
- No state policy changes should be made to the state’s kindergarten-elementary bilingual programs that would diminish quality.
- Middle and high school programs for English language learners should be revised to require sheltered English instruction in the content areas and training for content area teachers to enable them to make those instructional adaptations.
- The state should modify its procedures for monitoring ELL performance at elementary, middle and high school levels by disaggregating ELL performance data for each grade span.
One in Six Texas Students is an English Language Learner
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. In Texas, over 17 percent of 5 million students are English learners. Many educators have the training and skills necessary to teach students to learn content while also learning English. But in many schools, they do not. As a result, ELL students struggle to succeed.
Major changes in state policy and local school and district practices are essential. Huge achievement gaps at the middle and high school level in particular show need for changes in policy, teacher training and evaluation. But models do exist in some schools that are demonstrating how ELLs can be more effectively served.
Many Texas Children who Speak a Language Other than English Do Not Have Access to Quality Education
Research shows that teaching students in a language they understand is the best way of ensuring they learn English while also learning their core subjects. Bilingual education programs have been shown to be effective in serving elementary students. But students in middle school and high school many of whom only get 45-minute ESL classes each day are doing poorly. In Texas, ELL students in middle and high school drop out at twice the rate of the larger student population, and they are retained at rates consistently double that of their peers.
Compounding the issue is the fact that middle and high school ELL under-achievement is currently masked by the practice of data reporting that lumps ELL student performance across all grade levels tested into one average score for all ELL students in a district. This is misleading to the public. While many elementary level programs may be working well, programs for most middle and high school ELL students are not producing good results. Also, lack of effective, ongoing state monitoring of local programs serving ELLs, including on-site reviews, hampers efforts to intervene in schools that need help.
State policies regarding secondary level ELL programs, disaggregation of ELL achievement data, and program monitoring are currently being challenged in a court case filed by MALDEF against the state and a number of school districts. The district court ruling, which sided with the MALDEF position on the need for substantive reforms, was reviewed by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and sent back to the district court for additional hearings.
A new system for delivering adapted instruction in the core content areas for ELL students in middle and high school and improved monitoring needs to be implemented now.
- IDRA’s English Language Learner Education website
- 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
- IDRA’s Framework for Effective Instruction of Secondary English Language Learners