Report offers strategies to combat low ELL grad rates

Dive Brief:

  • Though students who first language is not English make up the fastest growing student group in the country, their graduation rates remain lower. This is true in Massachusetts, which boasts an 86% graduation rate for all students but only just above 70% for those whose first language is not English.
  • A recent study conducted by the America's Promise Alliance's Center for Promise analyzed student data and interviews with students, taking insights as to what the most significant challenges were for youth whose first language was not English, and what schools could be doing better in assisting them.
  • The study found students want more opportunities to connect with peers and adults, want chances to assist in designing the educational programs serving them, and want schools to help promote family engagement and offer flexible programs for older youth to be able to work on the side.

Dive Insight:

Students who were new to the state or qualified for free or reduced price lunch (which is used as an indicator of poverty) were more likely to need support. If these students are attending schools that primarily serve students from low-income families, there is the possibility they are chronically underfunded, and may not have robust ELL options. Educators have long complained about the underfunding of ELL services, arguing that the materials can be overly simple and not conducive to grade-level learning, with students continuing to learn at an elementary level. Such an issue could be even more severe in a school struggling to fund the necessities of the school continuing to run.

Once the rollout of the Every Student Succeeds Act is completed, school districts across the country will have a new set of guidelines to follow in regards to ELLs. The law will require states to establish a uniform process of identifying ELLs, moving them through learning and into general education as well as more robust reporting mechanisms. In the ESSA legislation, schools are required to build English proficiency rates into their Title I framework, a more significant potential pot of resources in contrast to Title III funding, which was offered under No Child Left Behind. The possibility of more robust federal resources are there with the new legislation, but it remains to be seen if it will be enough to meet the more stringent standards for proficiency that are forthcoming.

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Filed Under: K12
Top image credit: Flickr; Rob Shenk