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Every Student Succeeds Act: English Learning Children Not Left Behind

Written by Katy Lichon, Ph.D. on Thursday, 04 February 2016.

MC2 1182English learners (ELs) are the fastest growing population in U.S. schools at five million plus, and the newly minted Every Student Succeeds Act (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 that will impact this population.

Reviews for ESSA’s support of ELs has been described as measured support by some members of the field and by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, as an “improvement” from previous legislation.

Here is what teachers and school leaders should know about the key changes to how states, districts, and schools serve English learners.

1.  Funding

ESSA contains major revisions to the title funding mechanisms. Overall, ESSA would authorize an increase in Title III funds, but the challenge here becomes that the number of ELs is growing at an incredibly fast pace, potentially faster than the allocated funds. It is also important to note that authorization is not equivalent to appropriation, so we can all just hope for the best.

Overall, the manner in which ESSA will calculate fund allocation will allow for more equitable access by Catholic schools. Keep your eyes posted for updates related to Title I portability and the A-PLUS provision in coming months.

2.  Accountability

While Title III funds will continue to be provided, 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. Member of civil rights groups consider this to be a win and a solid step in ensuring that ELs are not overlooked.

3.  Measurement

ESSA will allow states to take over the responsibility of ensuring that the needs of ELs are met and will allow states to create their own goals and systems for assessing students annually and for deciding what steps to take in regards to the 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 science test at three different points, but now they must break apart data for ELs, a “subgroup” of students.  

Additionally, under the current law, EL’s test scores are included in school data after they have 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.

Overall, ESSA maintains service to ELs through a commitment of federal funds and through more nuanced accountability. However, as pointed out by TESOL International, the bill could have developed the following areas further: ENL/ESL trained teachers and specialists and support for bilingual, dual language, and multilingual programs.

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