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Every Student Succeeds Act: English Language Learning Children Not Left Behind

Monday, February 15, 2016 by Katy Walter Lichon, Ph.D.

ENLFebruary15on15thEnglish learners (ELs) are the fastest growing population in U.S. schools. By 2025, nearly 1 in 4 US school children will be an EL. While their numbers grow, their performance lags behind their native English-speaking peers. Less than 63 percent of English-language learners graduate high school in time. The recently minted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) might provide an opportunity for educators who aim to help ELs thrive.

ESSA, formerly known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the newest version of the Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), contains changes to the way funding will be distributed for services for these students, how accountability is managed, and who is responsible for measurement. Some of these changes help level the playing the field for Catholic school educators who serve ELs.

Here are three things you should know about this important new law.

1.  The Title funding mechanisms have been revised and the amounts increased.

Overall, ESSA authorizes an increase in Title III funds by 20 percent and Title I funds by 9 percent. Just as important is that ESSA contains major revisions to the title funding mechanisms. Most districts now will see a significant increase in allocations available for services to private school teachers. The manner in which ESSA will calculate fund allocation will allow for more equitable access by Catholic schools

There are sure to be challenges as the number of ELs grow. The rate of growth may outpace the growth in allocated funds.  Still, the future looks bright for educators seeking the necessary resources to teach this population. Keep your eyes posted for updates related to Title I portability and the A-PLUS provision in coming months.

2.  Accountability for ELs has transitioned.

While Title III will continue to be the source of funding, accountability for ELs will transition from Title III to Title I. Accountability under Title I will be measured as growth toward the attainment of English proficiency. The hope here is that by including accountability for these students in a larger funding pool, they will receive more attention.

Under ESSA, there will no longer be “supersubgroups” which statistically combined multiple groups of students for the purposes of waivers. “Supersubgroups” often masked underlying inequities. Members of civil rights groups consider this to be a win and a solid step in ensuring that ELs are not overlooked.

3.  Measurement responsibilities have shifted to the states.

ESSA allows states to assume the responsibility of ensuring that the needs of ELs are met and to create their own goals and systems for assessing students annually and for deciding what steps to take in regards to those results. States will determine their own goals, one of which must be English-language proficiency. Additionally, states will still be required to test students in reading and math grades 3 through 8 and once in high school, as well as test in science at three different points, but now they must break apart data for ELs, a “subgroup” of students.  

Additionally, under the former law, EL’s test scores were included in school data after they had been in the U.S. for one year. Under ESSA, this can continue or states can choose report growth over a three-year progression.

Changes will also be occurring in terms of how ELs with learning disabilities and long-term ELs are reported, as well as how EL reclassification takes place.

As educators who are passionate about meeting the needs of our ELs, we can continue to work to develop ENL/ESL trained teachers and specialists and support for bilingual, dual language, and multilingual programs, but this law is a major step forward for our students. ESSA maintains service to ELs through a commitment of federal funds and through more nuanced accountability. In doing so, this law paves the way for Catholic schools to educate more effectively their diverse populations of students. 

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About the Author

Katy Walter Lichon, Ph.D.

Katy Walter Lichon, Ph.D.

Katy Walter Lichon serves as the Director for the English as a New Language (ENL) Program, the Director of the Catholic School Advantage (CSA), and is a faculty member with ACE Teaching Fellows. Lichon is an educational linguist who focuses on the education of K-12 multilingual learners in Catholic schools and teacher education.

Lichon received her B.B.A. in marketing and management from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, M.Ed. from the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana, and her Ph.D. in Educational Philosophy from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Lichon has taught in Atlanta, Chicago, and Santiago, Chile. She is passionate about linguistics, language acquisition, bilingual education, the role of maternal speech, and ensuring that culturally and linguistically diverse students thrive in our Catholic schools. Lichon has also helped to begin the two-way immersion program at Holy Cross School in South Bend, IN, that is now in its fourth year.

She believes that educators are pivotal in forming a school environment where ELs and their families are honored as assets in the school community. She resides in South Bend, Indiana with her husband and two children.