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.

WHAT THE RESEARCH SAYS

  • 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. [1]

  • A series of studies at Stanford University found that English Language Learners’ scores grew faster than students in sheltered English immersion. [2]

  • Students who remain in ELL programs over a number of years — so-called long-term English learners — fare even worse than other ELLs. [3]

  • ELLs’ academic performance significantly lags that of their non-ELL peers — and more rigorous state standards and assessments undergoing implementation may exacerbate this gap. [4]

  • Research suggests several underdeveloped areas of policy that, with appropriate state action, could reap tremendous returns for ELL student performance. [5]

WHAT STAND IS DOING ABOUT IT

For nearly two decades, English Language Learners have been isolated from core classes. It was Arizona’s policy to require ELL students to be placed in four-hour blocks of language isolation during the school day. According to the state’s report card, ELL students scored below all other subgroups in every grade level and subject area, including students with special needs, as a direct result of this policy. 

Stand Arizona first extensively researched the issues. They studied policies in other states, looked at budgets, and talked to students and parents. After this extensive research, they drafted the legislation for SB 1014.

After all the hard work, the bill passed the legislature, and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed SB 1014 into law in 2019. With the stroke of his pen, Governor Ducey reinvented the landscape for ELL students to succeed.

The new law will now allow ELL students to spend more time interacting with native speakers to help them learn English faster. ELL students will now have a minimum two-hour language block. Expert educators will have the opportunity to tailor schedules to the needs of their students. 

Now, Stand is working with the Arizona Department of Education (ADE), Arizona State Board of Education (SBE), and parents to see that SB 1014 is implemented in a way that lives up to the intent of the law.

SOURCES:

[1]  Arizona Department of Education. A-Z School Report Cards. https://azreportcards.azed.gov/state-reports

[2]  "STUDENTS LEARNING ENGLISH BENEFIT MORE IN TWO-LANGUAGE INSTRUCTIONAL PROGRAMS THAN ENGLISH IMMERSION, STANFORD RESEARCH FINDS." States News Service 2014: States News Service, March 25, 2014. Web.

[3]  “English Language Learners: A Growing-Yet Underserved-Student Population.” English Language Learners: A Growing-Yet Underserved-Student Population | School Turnaround Learning Community, schoolturnaroundsupport.org/resources/english-language-learners-growing%E2%80%94yet.

[4]  “English Language Learners: A Growing-Yet Underserved-Student Population.” English Language Learners: A Growing-Yet Underserved-Student Population | School Turnaround Learning Community, schoolturnaroundsupport.org/resources/english-language-learners-growing%E2%80%94yet.

[5] “English Language Learners: A Growing-Yet Underserved-Student Population.” English Language Learners: A Growing-Yet Underserved-Student Population | School Turnaround Learning Community, schoolturnaroundsupport.org/resources/english-language-learners-growing%E2%80%94yet.

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