English Language Learners

The rate at which the ELL student population is growing within U.S. schools is reason enough for educators and policymakers to try to better understand the educational needs of such students. But a greater concern is the staggering achievement gap between ELL students and their English-proficient peers. As the number of ELL students grows, this gap highlights a tremendous missed opportunity that undermines both these students’ futures and American competitiveness—one that education policy must address.


  • Improve access to high-quality Academic assessments for ELLs.

  • Give districts the much-needed flexibility to help their students.


  • According to the state’s report card, ELL students scored below all other sub-groups on the statewide assessment, at every grade level and in every subject area, including students with special needs.

  • A series of studies at Stanford University found that English Language Learners’ scores grew faster than students in sheltered English immersion.

  • Students who remain in ELL programs over a number of years—so-called long-term English learners—fare even worse than other ELLs.

  • ELLs’ academic performance significantly lags that of their non-ELL peers—and more rigorous state standards and assessments undergoing implementation may exacerbate this gap.

  • Research suggests several underdeveloped areas of policy that, with appropriate state action, could reap tremendous returns for ELL student performance.


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