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.
IDRA English Learning Policy Issues for Texas
- Laws requiring bilingual education programs in elementary schools must remain, and exceptions must be strongly discouraged. And ELs in secondary schools must have access to teachers who are trained in EL 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.
With their potential for bilingualism, EL students are a great asset that should be nurtured. Research shows that bilingual and dual language education programs are highly effective in helping EL students learn English while also learning their core subjects. Texas must ensure these programs are properly supported and implemented. But middle and high school EL students, many of whom only get 45-minute ESL classes each day, do poorly on several metrics. That under-achievement is masked by the current practice of data reporting that lumps EL student performance across all grade levels. The state must monitor EL performance by school-level data instead, and it must vastly improve its efforts to support schools identified for intervention. Additionally, the state must ensure access to a strong public education for students, including new immigrant and refugee students, who may require more intensive, comprehensive services.
IDRA’s English Language Learner Education website
Bilingual Education Funding
Bilingual Allotment Data Dashboard: IDRA created this data dashboard to show scenarios of how increasing the bilingual education allotment will impact schools within each Texas House or Senate district.
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.
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.
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
Video and Text: Without Increased Resources for English Learners, Texas Compromises Education for One-fifth of Students, Invited testimony of IDRA presented for the House Public Education Committee on the recommendations of the Texas Commission on Public School Finance – Morgan Craven, J.D., National Director of Policy, February 13, 2019
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 Weight – IDRA 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