Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Education, Justice Departments Release ‘English Learner Tool Kit’

Source: Flickr/ via Shane Global Language Centres (CC BY 2.0)

Educators now have a new resource designed to improve the quality of programs for English-language learners — a “tool kit” rolled out by the U.S. departments of justice and education this week in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month and the 25th anniversary of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

About 10 percent of K-12 students in the United States are not native English speakers, meaning 5 million children enrolled in school have been identified as English-language learners, or ELLs. Of those, approximately 80 percent are Hispanic.

In January, the same federal departments released a joint set of guidelines for educating ELLs, addressing several areas that frequently result in noncompliance by school districts and state education agencies. The tool kit released this week comes as a follow up to the earlier document, and its 10 chapters are designed to help educators do the following:

  • Identify English learners
  • Deliver high-quality English learner programs
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of English learner programs
  • Prevent unnecessary segregation
  • Provide qualified staff
  • Ensure access to school programs and activities (including disability-related services)
  • Exit English learners from programs at the appropriate time
  • Monitor students’ progress
  • Support parents with limited English proficiency

“Our work is motivated by the belief that all students — regardless of race, gender, income, disability, and English learner status — need and deserve a world-class education,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a news release. “This tool kit — along with the guidance we released in January — can serve as a critical resource for educators in their work with English learners to help ensure that all students have a chance to succeed in school, careers and life.”

This is merely the first installment of the department’s support for ELLs, Duncan’s senior advisor John King told Education Week. The news outlet reports there’s another tool kit in the works — one specifically for educators working with new immigrant students who are learning English. It could be released as early as December.

“Many of the newcomers are among the rising number of unaccompanied children and youth who cross the U.S.-Mexico border, as they flee strife in their homelands,” Ed Week’s Corey Mitchell writes. “As they enter American classrooms, the students, many with yearlong gaps in their formal education and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, represent a significant new challenge for schools, educators say.”

The current tool kit includes resources such as a checklists, discussion questions, recommendations, program goal charts, data collection tips, and links to relevant materials from a variety of organizations.