- School districts are serving a more diverse student pool, with a variety of languages and cultural backgrounds, with the Salt Lake City School District educating 24,000 students that speak 80 to 90 different languages, District Administration reported.
- To close equity gaps in learning and more effectively meet the needs of English Language Learners (ELLs) and their parents, administrators increasingly turn toward online applications such as Google's translator plug-in to generally enhance communication, create homework that's more understandable, and make parts of their school sites more accessible to non-english speakers.
- Technology adoption comes with a caveat — machines aren't able to translate languages with complete accuracy. Human translation may still be a better option.
English language learners are one of the fastest growing student populations in the U.S. While a great deal of this population is connected to Latin American countries, data shows that diversity is increasing. States that have traditionally received high numbers of immigrants in the past — including California, Texas, Florida and New York — have built infrastructures to deal with highly diverse populations. However, other states are now experiencing an increase in immigrants arriving, and public schools struggle to meet the needs of those families.
When public schools, particularly those district schools that cater to low-income minority students, are not prepared to handle the unique needs of English learners, due to lack of resources and teachers with proper training, those students suffer and face significant learning gaps as they enter college and move on into their careers. Technology adoption, no matter how innovative, cannot alone adapt to the fact that all ELL students are unique, and proper teaching along with the technology is critical to making progress.
To narrow equity divides, districts can look toward innovative ways of enhancing communication with ELLs and their parents. Some methods, outlined in the report, “Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures," highlight the importance of district schools engaging with ELL families, enhancing early childhood education programs, and offering better training to teachers with diverse classrooms.