Federal, state and local officials need to recognize that acquiring academic language proficiency - the level of English required for academic success - is more demanding than acquiring social language skills.
For most English language learners, social language skills in English can be acquired in 2-3 years. However, English language learners need more than social language skills in order to achieve academic success. The acquisition of academic language proficiency can take English language learners from 5 to 7 years to achieve parity with their native English language peers.
Academic proficiency in English is the foundation upon which overall academic success is built for English language learners, therefore the language proficiency level of English language learners must be a factor in accountability for academic performance (e.g. Adequate Yearly Progress).
Under a new ESEA, accountability for academic achievement under Title I should include the English language proficiency levels of English language learners, as well as their performance on academic assessments For accountability purposes, both the language proficiency assessment and academic assessments should be taken into consideration and weighed according to each student's level of language proficiency. For English language learners at the beginning levels of language proficiency, more weight should be given to language proficiency assessment results. As a learner becomes more proficient in English, gradually more weight can be given to the academic content assessment results.
Track individual English language learner’s language proficiency, and aggregate English language learners by language proficiency within age groups for the purposes of tracking Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in academic subjects.
Under NCLB, standards for measuring progress for English language learners are set based on the number of years the learners have attended U.S. schools. This practice implies that all individuals designated as English language learners progress in their new language at the same rate, an assumption that contradicts the findings of numerous research studies in the field of second language acquisition. The length of residency in an English-speaking country is not automatically a reliable and trustworthy indicator of English language proficiency.
Expand Title III to provide more resources for professional development for educators and to expand state and local districts’ capacity to serve English language learners.
As the population of school-age English language learners continues to grow, so must the United States’ capacity to effectively serve them. English language learners must be taught by highly trained educators who are qualified to serve their specific needs in order to achieve high standards. More of these highly trained and qualified professionals are needed, as well as training for mainstream teachers on meeting the needs of English language learners. More resources under Title III, such as re-establishing federal grants for graduate study in ESL and bilingual education, will help towards this goal.
Provide resources to support dual-immersion and other programs that develop native language literacy for English language learners.
Research has demonstrated that native language and literacy development provides a strong foundation for second language acquisition and academic development. Academic instruction that includes the use of English language learners’ native languages, especially if they are literate in that language, promotes learners' academic achievement while they are acquiring the English needed to benefit fully from instruction through English. A new ESEA should re-institute discretionary grants targeted to support these specialized programs.