Education Policy

Excellent Education for Emergent Bilingual Students in Georgia

Boy with backpack in buttondownEmergent bilingual students are valuable contributors to our communities, with the added asset of the potential to be bilingual, biliterate and multicultural.

Providing excellent education opportunities that ensure English mastery while honoring and supporting students’ home languages and cultures is not only good for students, families, and communities, but it is also a civil right that must be protected.

Learn more about IDRA’s work to ensure excellent educational opportunities for emergent bilingual students below.

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Georgia is home to the eighth largest emergent bilingual population in the nation. In 2019, there were 108,752 emergent bilingual students in Georgia. According to a recent report by the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, the Georgia emergent bilingual program has grown significantly over the last decade to keep up with the growth in student population.

Of the seven states with more emergent bilingual students than Georgia, only one grew at a faster rate than Georgia from 2000 to 2017. Georgia’s emergent bilingual enrollment growth was 3.5 times faster than the national average over the same time.

Although Georgia educates a large number of emergent bilingual students, these students still face significant barriers. One such barrier is the fact that Georgia is one of 19 states that do not provide state assessments in any language other than English. This reflects a deficit view of languages other than English that may be spoken in the home.

Georgia offers some programs that value the students’ home language as an asset, including dual-language immersion, and the state began offering the Seal of Biliteracy for students that graduate and are proficient in more than one language. However, these programs have limited reach across the entire state and may still be inaccessible to emergent bilingual students. For example, IDRA research on data from the Georgia Department of Education indicates that students learning English represent between 2% and 3% of the students who received the Seal of Biliteracy in 2016-17 and 2017-18. This also reflects a larger disparity in graduation rates for emergent bilingual students (56.5% four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate) that is much lower than the non-emergent bilingual graduate rate (80.2% four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate).

Policy Recommendations for Georgia

To ensure excellent educational opportunities for emergent bilingual students, Georgia education leaders should:

  • Celebrate the diversity of languages spoken by Georgia’s students and repeal Georgia’s English-only official language law.
  • Conduct cost studies to determine the resources needed to provide an excellent education for Emergent bilingual students and require school districts to spend at least 90% of their bilingual education funds on direct costs for students in the classroom.
  • Increase funding for all emergent bilingual students according to cost studies and not just for specific programs like dual language.
  • Support districts to identify ways to address teacher shortages in Georgia’s English to speakers of other languages programs.
  • Support paraprofessional pipeline and grow your own programs to encourage people to become bilingual education teachers in their communities.

For more information, contact Terrence Wilson, J.D., IDRA Regional Policy and Community Engagement Director (


Georgia Emergent Bilingual Blog