Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Schools Across Country Face ELL Challenge

For many children who are English language learners, the road to proficiency can stretch on for years. While many shed their ELL label after several years, others languish in special language programs well into their teens.

A recent Associated Press article describes the myriad of challenges that educators face when educating ELL students. For example, a study by the education advocacy group Californians Together found that 59% of secondary ELLs had been in the United States for six years or longer–still struggling to reach proficiency.

These students are more advanced than beginners with no vocabulary. The group’s director told the AP that they are just stalled at an “intermediate” level.

When the students’ language proficiency stalls, that places them at risk of dropping out of high school. The article notes that graduation rates for ELLs in a number of states are lower than 60%, including 29% in Nevada.

The article notes that educators are hopeful that the implementation of the Common Core standards will standardize courses for ELLs–so they don’t vary as much. Nationally, such children are educated through many different avenues, ranging from English immersion to bilingual education.

We may learn more about what methods are working best by examining which programs promote English proficiency, and which are producing more long-term ELLs. Last September, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that focuses more attention on long-term ELLs, beginning with tracking how many longterm ELLs attend specific schools and school districts.

The legislation was sponsored by California State Senator Ricardo Lara, a Democrat. Districts will have to report and collect data every year.

“Schools and districts will now have the tools to properly track and address their progress toward improvement,” Lara said in a news release at the time.