How can Title III help Catholic schools? Title III is an element of the older No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and the new Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA), and it authorizes the use of federal funds to benefit immigrant and Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students in public and private schools. The funding is designed to support the development and implementation of new instructional programs, the expansion or enhancement of existing programs, family engagement initiatives, and/or professional development for teachers of English learners in order to help LEP and immigrant students achieve English proficiency and meet the same academic content standards as their grade-level peers.
How Do I Access Title III Services?
1. Identify LEP Students
Title III provides hundreds of millions of dollars in funds to states, who in turn distribute resources to Local Education Agencies (LEAs) according to the number of English learners they serve. Catholic schools have a right to access Title III services from their LEA based on the number of recognized English learners in their school, which underscores the importance of identifying LEP students.
“Catholic schools should distribute Home Language Surveys to all students,” counsels Katy Lichon, Ph.D., Faculty Coordinator of ACE’s English as a New Language Program. “It’s easy to overlook English learners, especially when their English on the playground is excellent. When we know who is speaking another language around the dinner table, we can better spot students who might, in actuality, be English learners.”
2. Communicate with your LEA
Once Catholic school leaders have a clear picture of their immigrant and Limited English Proficiency student population, they should reach out to their LEAs to begin the process of formally identifying these students.
“In most cases, individual states determine the criteria and assessment tools used to recognize English learners,” explains Dr. Lichon, “so it is important to begin the conversation with your LEA to see that the English learners in your school are officially recognized.” Formal identification is a crucial step to getting your fair share of local Title III services.
3. Know your Rights
Whereas LEAs do not need to implement the same program design for private schools as they do in public schools, participation between private and public schools must be considered equitable. The Office of Non-Public Education has a great “Frequently Asked Questions” page regarding private school participation in Title III programs that is worth checking out. It addresses what it means for programs to be equitable and what recourse is available if an LEA proves uncooperative. It helps to know your rights before talking to your LEA.
What Title III Can Be Used For
Title III funds are designed to “supplement, not supplant” local, state or other federal money that would otherwise be spent on English learners. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Native-Language Books
Research tells us that students who have developed literacy in their native language will read better in English. Consider using Title III to help you acquire books in your school library that are written in students’ native languages. And consider more than fiction as well. Non-fiction native-language books are valuable tools that allow students to access and think about academic content without a language barrier. Scholastic en Español is a great place to start to find Spanish language titles.
- Professional Development
Language learners, often referred to as the “silent minority”, are often overlooked in American classrooms. Regular classroom teachers, resource teachers, ESL pull-out teachers, principals and other school leaders need to recognize the unique academic needs of language learners and develop the technical skills and cultural responsiveness to ensure that English learners are thriving academically. ACE’s English as a New Language (ENL) Program offers a variety of opportunities to train teachers through its licensure program and professional development.
- Parental Education
Consider using Title III to help you support parent education initiatives. Here are some great materials from Colorin Colorado to get you started. Parents and guardians of English learners may feel sidelined when the language of school is English.
- After-school Programs
Homework can be a real challenge for students whose parents are not proficient in English. Set your students up for success by providing academic support after school or on weekends. Title III can be used to get these types of programs started. They may also help fund after-school or weekend English classes for parents.
- Technology and Instructional Resources
Acquiring curricular materials, software, or technology that supports English learners is also an appropriate use of Title III funding. Most major educational publishers now offer instructional resources specifically for language learners. For ideas on technology that promotes English acquisition, read this article from Edutopia.
As Catholic schools serve a diverse population of learners, it’s important that we find every source of support available to help these children thrive. For more detailed information on how private schools can access and utilize Title III services, view the Department of Education’s Office of Non-public Education’s guidance.
Interested in learning more on how to support English language learners? Apply to the English as a New Language Program! Applications are now open!