Advocacy Efforts Aim to Increase Opportunities, Improve Outcomes for English Learners
December 1, 2017

Photo courtesy of Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action

Delaware Advocates Highlight Funding Gaps for Serving EL Students

In Delaware, English learners are the fastest growing student demographic and are enrolled in every district and charter school in the state. Despite the fact that the state’s English learner population has grown by more than 400 percent in the last 10 years, Delaware is one of just four states that does not provide additional state resources to support English learners.

Through a new series of fact sheets, PIE Network member Rodel Foundation of Delaware and its partners hope to spread awareness about ways to better serve this growing sector of the state’s population. Ultimately, Rodel hopes this project will contribute to the fundamental redesign of the state’s funding system, so that it is fair for every child in the state, including English learners.

A key challenge Rodel reports so far has been resistance to change, fueled in part by misunderstandings of the challenges schools face while serving English learner students. Dedicated funds could help schools provide the variety of services that English learners need, including more certified instructors.

“By getting this information into the hands of our community and political leaders, we hope we contribute to this important equity conversation,” said Rodel president and CEO Paul Herdman.

“If we aim to equitably and effectively educate every student in Delaware’s public schools, we need to level the playing field, and the first step is to understand the assets they bring and the challenges they face.”

As advocates across the country work to advance policies that can help improve outcomes for English learners, each state faces a unique set of challenges and opportunities. Read on for updates from California, Oregon, Louisiana, and Tennessee.

California Report Calls Attention to an Overlooked Majority

PIE Network member the Education Trust-West recently released The Majority Report, a deep dive into the educational successes and challenges of Latino students in California. For the last two decades, Latino students have been the largest ethnic group in the state’s K-12 public schools, and one in three of California Latino K-12 students is an English learner.

However, California’s Latino students continue to face barriers such as insufficient access to early childhood education, tracking away from college preparatory coursework, and fewer connections to their school environments.

In addition to a call to better serve California’s Latino students, the report highlights school and policy efforts that are working. Examples include a district that awards recognition to students who are working toward, or have achieved, bilingual and biliterate proficiency, and a school that creates a welcoming environment for newcomer English learners through videos in their native languages and access to additional counseling services. According to the report: 

“Failing to offer a high-quality education to every California student, including the majority who are Latino, means failing to prepare the future leaders who will fuel our state’s economy, strengthen our communities, and maintain our state’s cultures, traditions, and values.”

The report also provides recommendations for policymakers, school leaders, and community advocates.  To specifically address the needs of Latino students who are English learners, EdTrust-West’s recommendations include:

  • Holding schools accountable for offering a broad curriculum to English learners,
  • Developing the bilingual teacher pipeline, and
  • Standardizing English learner reclassification policies statewide.

Find the full list of recommendations here.

Oregon Leaders Implement Law Improving Accountability for EL Resources

In 2015, advocates in Oregon helped pass significant legislation that both improved accountability for financial resources in English learner programs, and provided extra support to districts struggling to produce successful outcomes for English learner students. (Network members: learn more about the advocacy work behind HB 3499 here.)

In the past two years, advocates have continued to work toward effective implementation of the law. Key challenges during the implementation period have included major leadership changes in Oregon, maintaining momentum among a broad coalition, and working through differing interpretations of legislative intent as State Board regulations were set, said Parasa Chanramy, policy & advocacy manager at Stand for Children Oregon.

Louisiana Advocates Work to Reach Parents & Build ESSA Plan

Stand for Children Louisiana has supported English learners through their parent outreach and advocacy efforts. For parents of English learners, Stand Louisiana tapped a migrant education specialist to provide advice on avoiding the summer learning slide. In addition to supporting parents, Stand Louisiana and DFER Louisiana worked as part of a diverse coalition to make their state’s ESSA plan equitable. As a result, Louisiana’s plan received top marks from national experts for its focus on English learner students.

EL Advocates Guide Work of Tennessee Equity Coalition

In Tennessee, advocates worked with other leaders to build a broad coalition focused on equity, including dynamic leadership from Conexion Americas— a Nashville-based organization designed to support Latino families. The coalition supported holding more schools accountable for English learner performance via the state’s ESSA plan. According to Tennessee SCORE, the plan will lower the minimum number of students in a subgroup (also referred to as n-size) to 10 for the English Language Proficiency Assessment.

To connect with advocates working on English learner policies, please reach out.



Christina Dobratz

Christina is PIE Network's Project Manager, Communications & Policy  

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