- Administrators and educators looking to build and broaden an English language learning (ELL) program should first spend the time to assess what a facility needs before moving forward, Wisconsin 2019 Teacher of the Year Sarahi Monterrey writes for Edutopia, based on her experience helping to develop an English learner (EL) program for students at Waukesha North High School.
- Monterrey writes that she focused on developing classes that were not self-contained for ELs, but were inclusive with other courses. She also made sure there was support for staff, including, for example, names of EL students listed with the pronunciation spelled phonetically.
- Parents should also have an opportunity to be heard, and a monthly bilingual parents meeting has helped to build a better connection between the school and families, in addition to helping parents understand what their children are learning during the day.
It’s important for educators to have a plan in place for ELL programs. This need is only growing as the number of EL students enrolled in a language instruction education program (LIEP) is growing in counties across all regions of the country, according to the “Our Nation’s English Learners” report from the U.S. Department of Education. Many districts that previously either didn't have or had a minimal EL student population are also growing in numbers.
Humboldt County School District in Nevada, for example, has seen a 45.6% rise in EL students enrolled in an LIEP from the 2009-10 school year to the 2014-15 school year. In Maine, School Administrative District 17 has seen the same population increase 240% over the same period. The St. Bernard Parish School District in Louisiana rose 689.3% in the number of EL students in LIEP programs, while McKenzie County Public School District 1 in North Dakota has seen a 100% increase over the same five-year period.
Administrators should also focus on developing curriculum that can address and support EL students speaking multiple languages, rather than focusing on one or two. Children arriving in the U.S. are coming from regions across the globe, from Asia to South America, the Middle East and the Caribbean.
The five most common languages spoken by EL students in U.S. schools are Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Vietnamese and Haitian Creole, according to “The Biennial Report to Congress On the Implementation of the Title III State Formula Grant Program,” issued by the U.S. Department of Education in 2018, and covering the 2012 to 2014 school years.
Of the five, Spanish was the prevalent language in eight states — including California, Colorado, Arkansas and others — spoken by 80% or more of ELs over both the 2012-13 school year and the 2013-14 school year, according to the report. But EL students speaking Arabic and Chinese grew from the 2012-13 school year to the 2013-14 school year, while those speaking the other three languages decreased.
For administrators, LIEPs must then be designed to be flexible enough to adapt to EL students no matter the home languages they speak.