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Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
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2

Policy Context

Speaking, reading, and writing in different languages are complex phenomena that have been viewed from many disciplinary and social perspectives. The committee’s task was to recommend policies and practices that will enhance successful educational outcomes for dual language learners (DLLs) and English learners (ELs) in the United States from birth through grade 12.1 ELs are a large and highly diverse population of children and youth exposed to multiple languages at various points during the first two decades of their lives. This chapter examines the evolution of federal policies that have shaped practice in the education of ELs over the past 50 years, federal and state policies that govern early care and education (ECE) for DLLs and whether they are consistent with promising and effective practices,2 and current federal and state policies related to K-12 education for ELs that have followed the advent of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015.

OVERVIEW OF POLICIES GOVERNING THE EDUCATION OF ENGLISH LEARNERS, 1965-2015

Policies matter. In the context of this report, they set assumptions and expectations for what and how ELs should learn in schools and regulate their learning environments. In reviewing the evolution of policies relevant

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1 The terms “DLL” and “EL” as used in this report are defined in Box 1-1 in Chapter 1.

2 See Chapter 5 for a more comprehensive review of promising and effective practices for DLLs in ECE.

Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
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to the education of ELs, it is important to distinguish between targeted, EL-specific policies and general education and special education policies that relate to broader populations that include ELs, and to consider their relationships.

EL-Specific Policies

Federal policies affecting ELs have their origins in the Civil Rights initiatives and the War on Poverty that were priorities of the L. B. Johnson administration in the 1960s.3 Using the framework of Ruiz (1984),4 these early policies addressed language learning for ELs as either a means of solving a “problem” to provide equal opportunity or a “right” to access English learning while being educated through the student’s first or primary language (i.e., bilingual education). Framing education in terms of problems and rights carries clear assumptions about deficits in students and inaction or violations by systems that need to be addressed through enforcement. Only rarely does one see statements referring to bilingualism as an asset, even in the nonbinding “Whereas . . .” portions of the relevant legislation or in court rulings that might reflect Ruiz’s third perspective of language as a resource. It is important to recognize these historical origins of EL policies when considering policies related to children’s access to learning English and to grade-level content instruction.

In 1968, Congress passed the Bilingual Education Act as Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), representing the first federal action specifically addressing the educational needs of ELs. The law authorized modest, targeted grants to local education agencies (LEAs) for the implementation of bilingual education programs that used the primary language of ELs to help ensure that they could continue learning subject matter content while acquiring English proficiency. There was an almost immediate reaction to the requirement that the programs be bilingual—an issue that became the contentious focus of subsequent reauthorizations of ESEA. Pressure came from antibilingual, English-only groups such as U.S.

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3 Early funding for federal bilingual programs was influenced by Cuban refugees in the Coral Gables bilingual programs. An earlier influence was the 1930 Lemon Grove case involving segregation of ELs in which school officials argued that the segregation of Mexican children would facilitate the learning of English and allow special attention to the “language difficulties” of Mexican American children who entered school speaking only Spanish (García, 1989; McLemore and Romo, 2005). These early developments and the Mendez v. Westminister School District case of 1946 in which it was argued that Spanish-speaking children learn English more readily in mixed classrooms laid the foundation for the Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education desegregation case.

4 Ruiz’s framework analyzes language policy according to how it treats language diversity—as a problem, a right, or a resource.

Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
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English,5 as well as lobbying by school districts in which large numbers of different languages in the EL population made bilingual programs impractical. Special alternative instructional programs (SAIPs) using only English were allowed with a funding cap, and congressional debates on ESEA reauthorization centered on the specific cap (4-10% in 1984, increased to 25% for programs not requiring instruction in the native language in 1988 [Stewner-Manzanares, 1988] after intense lobbying by the Reagan administration). Two pieces of legislation pertinent specifically to the Native American population are described in Box 2-1.

During this same period, the courts became active in their interpretation of the Civil Rights Act of 19646—most notably Title VI, which declared, “No person in the United States shall, on the grounds of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” In 1974, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the San Francisco Unified School District was in violation of this act for failing to provide 2,856 Chinese schoolchildren access to learning English or to the basic content of schooling because they had not developed the level of English proficiency necessary to benefit from subject matter instruction in English.7 The Court stated, “There is no equality of treatment merely by providing students with the same facilities, textbooks, teachers, and curriculum; for students who do not understand English are effectively foreclosed from any meaningful education.” The Court declared, “Imposition of a requirement that, before a child can effectively participate in the educational program, he must already have acquired those basic skills is to make a mockery of public education.”

Congress followed the Lau decision by incorporating and extending its principles into the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974.8 According to that act, no state could deny students the right to equal education as a result of “failure by an educational agency to take appropriate action to overcome language barriers that impede equal participation by its students in its instructional programs [emphasis added],” regardless of whether federal funds were involved.

The controversy surrounding the bilingual emphasis of ESEA entered into the interpretation of the Lau decision. Shortly after the ruling, the Carter administration created a task force to enforce Lau that was decidedly in favor of bilingual remedies in the elementary grades. The task force

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5 U.S. English is a lobbying organization founded in 1983 that promotes the idea that English should be the official language of the United States.

6 Civil Rights Act of 1964, P.L. 88-352, 78 Stat. 241 (1964).

7Lau v. Nichols, 414 U.S. 563 (1974).

8 Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974, P. L. 93-380, 88 Stat. 515 (1974).

Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
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identified three types of acceptable programs: (1) transitional bilingual education programs (TBEs), (2) bilingual/bicultural programs, and (3) multilingual/multicultural programs. The task force stated that English-only programs were inferior: “Because an ESL [English as a second language] program does not consider the affective nor cognitive development of students in this category and time and maturation variables are different here than for students at the secondary level, an ESL program is not appropriate [emphasis in original]” (Ramsey, 2012, p. 159). These rules, which the administration did not turn into regulations—widely interpreted as a political

Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
×

decision (Crawford, 2004)—were nevertheless used in U.S. Office of Civil Rights negotiations with local districts in support of bilingual programming (Crawford, 2004).

The period from the mid-1970s through the 1980s saw an interest in studies comparing students in bilingual and alternative English-only programs (attempting to control for confounding factors through experimental or quasi-experimental designs). The question of “bilingual or not” became the primary policy question under consideration. The American Institutes for Research (Danoff et al., 1978) produced a congressionally mandated evaluation of Title VII-funded bilingual programs and found few positive effects for bilingual education. The report was heavily criticized for its methodological flaws and exposed divisions among supporters on each side. Senior administration staff in the Office of Policy, Budget and Evaluation of the [then] U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare entered into the controversy, reviewing studies they deemed methodologically acceptable and conducting a frequency count of studies that supported either side or were equivocal (Baker and de Kanter, 1983). These results were mixed as well, leading to the department’s conclusion that federal policy should not favor bilingual education.

Subsequently, the same office commissioned two evaluation studies to shed further light on the bilingual versus English-only question, using statistical methodologies considered cutting-edge at the time. The National Research Council (1992) reviewed these studies, concluding that both “suffered from excessive attention to the use of elaborate statistical methods intended to overcome the shortcomings in the research designs” and that “the absence of clear findings in [the studies] that distinguish among the effects of treatments and programs relating to bilingual education does not warrant conclusions regarding differences in program effects, in any direction” (p. 104). Better designs and more sophisticated meta-analyses would be required to answer the question.9

In the absence of convincing evaluation research on the effectiveness of bilingual education and vigorous political resistance to the approach on the part of English-only advocates, a policy middle ground took root in the ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court of Castaneda v. Pickard.10 In that ruling, Judge Carolyn Randall defined standards that a district must follow to take “appropriate action” under the Equal Educational Opportunities Act: that

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9 Studies examining this question continued beyond the 1980s, and interest in this topic has not abated. Several studies (Francis et al., 2006; Greene, 1997; Rolstad et al., 2005) used meta-analytic techniques in examining the effectiveness of bilingual versus English-only approaches, and therefore took into account the program effects found in each study even if they were not statistically significant. Three studies funded by the U.S. Department of Education (Francis et al., 2006; Slavin and Cheung, 2003; Tong et al., 2008) used quasi-experimental designs.

10Castaneda v. Pickard, 648 F.2d 989 (5th Cir. 1981).

Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
×

(1) the educational approach must be based on “sound educational theory”; (2) the program must be implemented adequately; and (3) after a period of time, the program must be evaluated for its effectiveness. This ruling can be seen as a position that does not endorse any particular program, but requires thoughtfulness in whatever method or theory underlies a program

This general approach was an acceptable compromise during the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations, during which the U.S. Office of Civil Rights issued guidance delineating these standards for reviewing programs for ELs. These so-called “Castaneda standards” remain to this day as the foundation for Title VI enforcement activities by the U.S. Office of Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Justice. This framing of the issues in district and state implementation of EL programs in a recent “Dear Colleagues” letter (U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education, 2015) is discussed in more detail later in this chapter.

Shift to Standards-Based Reform

Equally important are the shifts in federal education policy toward systemic changes and standards (Cohen, 1995; Smith and O’Day, 1991). The release of A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform (Gardner et al., 1983), the report of Ronald Reagan’s National Commission on Excellence in Education, triggered a series of events that led to the “standards-based reform” movement (Cross, 2015; Jennings, 2015). Following on the Charlottesville Education Summit convened by President George H. W. Bush and the National Governors Association (whose education chair was Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas), a strong push toward deregulation at the federal level in exchange for demonstration of state educational outcomes ensued (Takona and Wilburn, 2004).

Early in the Clinton administration, Congress passed the Goals 2000: Educate America Act of 1994,11 which established state standards. The reauthorization of ESEA, called the Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994, followed suit by authorizing programs based on the standards. Because the federal government lacks the authority to prescribe the content of instruction for states and districts, each state was free to develop its own standards. The rhetoric shifted from accountability for spending of federal funds to accountability for demonstrated results.

This shift changed the way in which the Bilingual Education Act was envisioned. It had consisted mainly of targeted local grants and capacity building for the field (such as fellowship programs to produce the next generation of university faculty). The new policy shift created school- and system-wide grants to whole schools and LEAs, taking the first steps away

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11 Goals 2000: Educate America Act, P. L. 103-227 (1994).

Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
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from “nonsystemic” approaches targeting specific projects or grade levels to support specific students (see Box 2-2).

In 2001, Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB)12 with strong bipartisan support, which became a signature education bill of the George W. Bush presidency. NCLB added strong accountability provisions for students’ attainment of standards and for reduction of gaps among subgroups of students, including ELs. Title I of the bill accomplished its goal of making schools, local districts, and states accountable for the performance of ELs, with corrective actions required of systems failing to meet the bill’s requirements.

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12 No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, P. L. 107-110 (2001).

Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
×

The notion of standards also found its way into accountability for English language proficiency as the driver for EL programs in Title III. NCLB required states to adopt English language proficiency standards that they would develop as part of Title III, and to administer annual assessments aligned with these standards. Separate accountability requirements (annual measurable achievement objectives [AMAOs]) for a combination of student performance on the state English language proficiency and content tests were instituted. Title III funding for schools became based entirely on the numbers of ELs rather than competitive grants (National Research Council, 2011).

Emergence of the Common Core

NCLB/ESEA was up for reauthorization in 2007, but when President Obama took office in 2009, the nation was in a deep recession, and political prospects for an immediate reauthorization of the law appeared dim. Given that the steep requirement for adequate yearly progress caused most districts and states to fail under the law’s accountability provisions, the Obama administration invited states to request waivers allowing for flexibility.

As part of efforts to deal with the Great Recession of 2008, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) directed $10 billion in additional funds to education. Through the Race to the Top Program (U.S. Department of Education, 2009, p. 2), states were required to address the Obama administration’s priorities:

  • Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace to compete in the global economy.
  • Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction.
  • Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most.
  • Turning around the lowest-achieving schools.

In addition, ARRA provided support for consortia of states to develop common assessments for specified content areas. The resulting Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium developed assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards in English language arts, literacy, and mathematics, creating synergies between the Common Core and state needs for relief from the NCLB accountability provisions.

The Common Core and its variants gave educators a new appreciation

Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
×

of the role of language in the learning of academic content and how it is measured in assessments. With encouragement from the U.S. Department of Education through various initiatives—most notably the ARRA-funded Race to the Top competition and the waivers enabling NCLB flexibility—states were required to adopt college- and career-ready content standards as part of their applications. Significantly, the NCLB waiver application required each state to adopt state English language proficiency (ELP) standards corresponding to the college- and career-ready standards. This requirement led to a shift in the nature of the ELP standards as a result of changes in how language would be used to address the new content standards (for example, the Common Core State Standard for mathematical practice expects students to “construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others”).

A valuable document that guided this process was a report of the Council of Chief State Schools Officers (2012) known as the “ELP/D Framework,” which describes the English language proficiency required for students to engage in learning the grade-level course content specified by the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards. In so doing, the report builds an explicit bridge between academic content and students’ use of language. This integration of standards for academic content and English language proficiency communicates to mainstream content teachers who otherwise would gravitate toward teaching the vocabulary of their content that they are expected to focus on how students engage in using language to learn through discourse, argumentation, and text-based evidence. It also can help build bridges between designated English language development teachers and content teachers who in some cases may work in isolation from each other (Valdés et al., 2014).

Another notable trend was the move away from federally driven, top-down accountability models under NCLB. Most educators now agree that the punitive approach to accountability, with required actions for schools and districts failing to meet annual measurable objectives and adequate yearly progress, did not build system capacity for improvement. Additionally, it served to narrow the curriculum to reading and math, especially in the grade levels where assessment was required.

Despite their controversial nature and local tailoring by states, the Common Core State Standards also served as an impetus for educators to consider deeper learning and social/cultural skills. The committee that developed the National Research Council (2012, p. 65) report Education for Life and for Work was asked to create research-based definitions of various competencies that would go beyond the analytical focus of the Common Core. The committee reached three conclusions:

Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
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  1. Cognitive competencies have been more extensively studied than have intrapersonal and interpersonal competencies, showing consistent, positive correlations (of modest size) with desirable educational, career, and health outcomes. Early academic competencies are also positively correlated with these outcomes.
  2. Among intrapersonal and interpersonal competencies, conscientiousness (staying organized, responsible, and hardworking) is most highly correlated with desirable educational, career, and health outcomes. Antisocial behavior, which has both intrapersonal and interpersonal dimensions, is negatively correlated with these outcomes.
  3. Educational attainment—the number of years a person spends in school—strongly predicts adult earnings and also predicts health and civic engagement. Moreover, individuals with higher levels of education appear to gain more knowledge and skills on the job than do those with lower levels of education, and to be able, to some extent, to transfer what they learn across occupations. Since it is not known what mixture of cognitive, intrapersonal, and interpersonal competencies accounts for the labor market benefits of additional schooling, promoting educational attainment itself may constitute a useful complementary strategy for developing 21st century competencies.

The federal definition of ELs also recognizes competencies that go beyond core academic skills when it refers to recognizing ELs’ need to access “the opportunity to participate fully in society” (ESSA Section 8101).

CURRENT POLICIES FOR DUAL LANGUAGE LEARNERS

As children’s enrollment in early learning programs has increased during the past two decades (National Institute for Early Education Research, 2015), efforts to forge stronger connections between these programs and the K-12 grades have emerged at the school, district, and state levels (Bornfreund et al., 2015; Ritchie and Gutmann, 2013). These efforts, known as P-3 or pre-K to grade 3 initiatives, seek to align standards, curriculum, and instruction starting with pre-K and extending at least to grade 3. States have aligned their early learning and K-12 standards. Their aim is to create a seamless, continuous educational experience for children from birth to age 8, to sustain learning gains made in effective early education programs, and to continue to build on these gains in the K-3 grades and beyond.

During the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Education

Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
×

acted to expand its oversight to include early education. Early education for young children with disabilities was in place as part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Then Secretary of Education Arne Duncan established a new position of deputy assistant secretary for early learning in the elementary and secondary education division. The federal definition of early learning spans birth to age 8, thus overlapping with the K-3 grades or ages 5-8 of the existing K-12 division. These two entities coexist, and their concerns regarding DLLs are reflected in the overlapping age span specifications in the statement of task for this study (see Box 1-2 in Chapter 1).

Early learning is now among the provisions of ESSA,13 the 2015 reauthorization of ESEA. ESSA reinforces original provisions of ESEA allowing Title I funds to be used for early learning programs from birth. Districts seeking to expand their pre-K programs are using Title I funds for that purpose, but the funds thus invested are estimated at only about 3 percent of Title I funds (states are not required to report on the use of Title I funds for early learning). ESSA also directs states to develop policies designed to forge closer connections between early learning programs and K-12 education, specifically K-3, including alignment of educational experiences. Preschool Development Grants will continue to support that work. Some states, such as Minnesota and Oregon, are beginning to issue relevant policy guidance.

The policy context in the ESSA era will provide more opportunities for schools, districts, and states to create programs for DLLs that start early with pre-K at ages 3 and 4 and are well aligned with grades K-3 and beyond. As discussed in Chapter 5, research findings indicate that starting early to build second language competence while supporting the home or primary language is a promising program strategy and policy direction. These findings point to the need to provide more DLLs with pre-K programs that support their first language while developing their English proficiency, especially for academic learning and rich literacy development.

P-3 or pre-K to grade 3 initiatives are likely to increase at the district level as a result of both ESSA guidelines and the expansion of state-funded pre-K programs that provide more DLLs with educational experiences prior to kindergarten. At present, however, research on and evaluations of these efforts are limited. Except for Lindholm-Leary’s (2015b) evaluation of the Sobrato Early Academic Language (SEAL) model (see Chapter 5), none of the longitudinal studies of pre-K programs that have tracked students from pre-K into the K-12 grades have included analyses of DLLs (e.g., Zellmann and Kilburn, 2015). The remainder of this section begins by reviewing the landscape of state-funded pre-K programs, in which nearly one-third of the nation’s 4-year-olds are currently being educated (National Institute

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13 Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015, P. L. 114-95, 114 Stat. 1177 (2015).

Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
×

for Early Education Research, 2015). It then turns to policies related to the Head Start and Early Head Start programs, which serve more than 1 million children and their families (Administration for Children and Families, 2015), reaching approximately 42 percent of eligible preschool-age children and 4 percent of infants and toddlers living at or below the federal poverty level (Schmit and Matthews, 2013). The committee was unable to find policies governing DLL early learning and family engagement practices for programs funded by the Child Care and Development Fund, which provides subsidies to low-income workers to pay for child care services.

State Pre-K Policies Related to Literacy, Language, and Content Learning

In contrast with the K-12 system, the goals of pre-K programs are focused primarily on preparing children for academic success in kindergarten. To that end, all states have issued early learning and development standards (ELDS) for increasing children’s kindergarten readiness, and many states have developed standards for younger ages as well.

Espinosa and Calderon (2015) reviewed the ELDS of 21 states and the District of Columbia with respect to their attention to the education of DLLs.14 The authors first classified states according to their approach to DLLs’ home language development. Specifically, states were classified into those that promote the following approaches: dual language (DL), English language development (ELD), and English immersion (EI). Roughly consistent with the approaches taken in K-12 education, the DL approach encourages a bilingual workforce, as well as the development of bilingual and biliterate children, typically through assessments of children in English and their home language. In a DL educational setting, at least 50 percent of instructional time is in the child’s home language, and 50 percent is focused on English language development. On the other end of the spectrum, states with an EI approach emphasize rapid acquisition of English in an English-only instructional environment and do not explicitly support home language maintenance. States with an ELD approach fall in between the DL and EI states; these states prioritize English instructional environments but also recognize the value of the home language in supporting the child’s long-term learning and overall well-being. The ELD approach uses the home language to transition to an English-only environment as quickly

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14 States with high shares of DLLs and states that are members of the North Carolina–led K-3 Assessment Consortium were selected for the review. These states include Alaska, Arizona, California, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin, along with the District of Columbia.

Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
×

as possible and can be compared to the transitional bilingual education or English as a second language approach taken in K-12 education.

In addition to classifying the states according to their home language approaches, Espinosa and Calderon (2015) reviewed each state’s standards on a number of other indicators, such as whether the standards include clear statements about the major goals for DLL education, how the stated goals meet the needs of DLLs, and whether the standards include a separate domain for DLL language acquisition. They found that most (16) of the states they reviewed have set an ELD approach to their early learning standards. They highlight the standards of California, Illinois, and New Jersey as providing model language for other states. California is one of the few states that provides a clear statement of philosophy about the goals for DLL learning; establishes a separate set of domains for DLLs on English language and home language development; and addresses DLLs’ needs in communication, language, literacy, and social-emotional development (California Department of Education, 2009).

State Pre-K Policies Concerning Access to Services and Family Engagement

Eligibility for public pre-K programs varies substantially across states. Ten states currently do not fund such programs, while several fund small programs that are accessible to a modest number of children—typically those from low-income families. In 1995, Georgia became the first state to provide pre-K publicly for all 4-year-olds in the state. Several states, such as Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, and West Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia, provide high levels of access to free, voluntary pre-K for all 4-year-olds (National Institute for Early Education Research, 2015).

Of the 53 state-funded programs in 40 states, 22 report DLL enrollment levels, and DLLs represent an estimated 19 percent of the enrollment in those 22 states (National Institute for Early Education Research and Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes, 2014). Surprisingly, many of the states that do not report DLL enrollment, including Arizona, California, Florida, and New York, are those that likely have high shares of DLLs given their history as immigrant destinations. Immigrants and Hispanics are less likely than nonimmigrants and non-Hispanics to enroll in quality child care and education programs. A number of explanations have been offered for this differential, including financial barriers and a shortage of high-quality programs in immigrant and Hispanic neighborhoods (e.g., Crosnoe, 2007; Fortuny et al., 2010; Magnuson et al., 2006; National Task Force on Early Childhood Education for Hispanics, 2007; Takanishi, 2004).

Programs can encourage the involvement of DLLs through a number of strategies, such as approaching families from a strength-based perspec-

Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
×

tive, implementing culturally and linguistic responsive services, and using community resources to support family engagement. The extent to which state policy encourages these practices varies greatly. In their review of a subset of state ELDS, Espinosa and Calderon (2015) identify seven states with specific recommendations on how to engage DLL families in the education of their children. Serving as a potential model to follow, California’s curriculum framework acknowledges the importance of family engagement and provides educators with a set of practices designed to form meaningful relationships with families (California Department of Education, 2009). Examples of these practices include the following: “highlight the many ways in which families are already involved in their children’s education”; “provide opportunities for parents and family members to share their skills with staff, the children in the program, and other families”; and “hold an open house or potluck dinner for families in the program” (California Department of Education, 2009, p. 16).

Head Start and Early Head Start Policies Related to Literacy, Language, and Content Learning

As the primary agency responsible for overseeing and regulating Head Start grantees, the Office of Head Start (OHS) issues requirements to programs on learning standards, assessment, and curriculum. OHS also provides general program planning and technical assistance around implementation of the program requirements. The Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework is a document that describes program requirements for development and learning, monitoring of progress, alignment of curricula, and general program planning (Office of Head Start, 2010b). The framework was updated in 2015 to include infants through preschoolers, and includes requirements in the domain of English language development focused specifically on the education of DLLs (Office of Head Start, 2015). The framework provides guidance on learning expectations for DLLs and stresses the importance of giving children the opportunity to express their knowledge in their home language: “Children who are dual language learners need intentional support for the development of their home language as well as for English acquisition” (Office of Head Start, 2015, p. 35). The framework also emphasizes the importance of choosing “assessment instruments, methods, and procedures that use the languages or languages that most accurately reveal each child’s knowledge, skills, and abilities” (Office of Head Start, 2010b, p. 5). Thus, the current Head Start approach can be classified as one that promotes biliteracy and bilingualism

Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
×

in DLLs. A 2013 report to Congress15 from the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) states that the majority of children in Head Start programs were exposed to an adult speaking their home language in the classroom or during home visits (Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, 2013). There has, however, been no comprehensive evaluation of Head Start grantees on the degree of support for home language development, the quality of language inputs, or the amount of time spent using children’s native language in the classroom.

Head Start Policies Concerning Access to Services and Family Engagement

Approximately one-third of children in Head Start come from homes in which a language other than English is spoken—Spanish in the overwhelming majority of cases (Administration for Children and Families, 2014). The OPRE (2013) report notes that within Head Start, DLLs were less likely than children from monolingual English homes to be enrolled in programs that offered full-day, center-based ECE, but there were no measurable quality differences in the type of care received by DLLs and non-DLLs (Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, 2013).

Head Start and Early Head Start provide detailed guidance to programs on how to engage families, referred to as the Parent, Family, and Community Engagement (PFCE) framework (Office of Head Start, 2011). The framework encourages practices that are culturally responsive and offer a set of outcomes that can be used to evaluate family engagement practices, such as the extent to which families “participate in the leadership development, decision-making, program policy development, or in community and state organizing activities to improve children’s development and learning experiences” (Office of Head Start, 2011, p. 5). OHS also encourages programs to develop data-driven family engagement practices and evaluate themselves regularly, including by using a program preparedness checklist to help them assess their services to families of DLLs.

Through OHS’s Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness National Center, grantees in both Head Start and Early Head Start programs also receive guidance on how to improve outreach, services, and outcomes for DLLs. A recently developed toolkit is designed to help programs evaluate and strengthen their methods for communicating with parents whose primary language is not English and be more culturally and linguistically responsive to children and families.16

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15 The Head Start Act requires OPRE to prepare a report to Congress on the characteristics of and services provided to DLLs in Head Start.

16 Head Start also is governed by a set of “multicultural principles,” released and recently updated by OHS. These principles include the following: (1) Every individual is rooted in

Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
×

According to OPRE’s (2013) report to Congress, almost 80 percent of parents of DLLs in Early Head Start reported that they had attended group activities for parents and their children during the past year, nearly two-thirds of parents of DLLs reported that they had attended an Early Head Start social event, and 57 percent had attended parent education meetings or workshops (Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, 2013). To date, there have been no formal evaluations of the extent to which Head Start grantees use the toolkits and checklists provided by the program to increase access to and engagement of DLL families in their services.

The Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) Program is designed specifically for Spanish-speaking migrant DLL families. MSHS differs from traditional programs in being structured to address the residential mobility of these families. It provides open and continuous enrollment so that families can follow crop-harvesting schedules, and often provides transportation for the children (Diversity Data Kids, 2014).

CURRENT POLICIES FOR ENGLISH LEARNERS K-12

Federal K-12 Policies Related to Literacy, Language, and Content Learning

ESSA, enacted on December 10, 2015, has broad implications for ELs through several notable changes related to their inclusion in state plans, school accountability, and entry/exit procedures for status as an EL. Among the most notable changes in the law are the following:

  • ESSA shifts the locus of decision-making authority for accountability to states and localities and limits federal authority in allowing exceptions. States are expected to administer and report academic assessments annually in grades 3-8 and once in high school, along

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culture. (2) The cultural groups represented in the communities and families of each Head Start program are the primary sources for culturally relevant programming. (3) Culturally relevant and diverse programming requires learning accurate information about the culture of different groups and discarding stereotypes. (4) Addressing cultural relevance in making curriculum choices is a necessary, developmentally appropriate practice. (5) Every individual has the right to maintain his or her own identity while acquiring the skills required to function in our diverse society. (6) Effective programs for children with limited English speaking ability require continued development of the first language while the acquisition of English is facilitated. (7) Culturally relevant programming requires staff who reflect the community and families served. (8) Multicultural programming for children enables children to develop an awareness of, respect for, and appreciation of individual cultural differences. (9) Culturally relevant and diverse programming examines and challenges institutional and personal biases. (10) Culturally relevant and diverse programming and practices are incorporated in all systems and services and are beneficial to all adults and children (Office of Head Start, 2010a, pp. 11-69).

Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
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  • with science assessments in three grade spans. These assessments are intended to identify schools (not districts) that are in need of comprehensive or targeted assistance, and to support a system of technical assistance that is evidence based as determined by the state.

  • States may include students formerly classified as ELs in the EL subgroup for academic assessment purposes for a period of up to 4 years after they have been reclassified (previously this period was unspecified in law, but up to 2 years was allowed in regulation).
  • Student progress toward English language proficiency, formerly part of a separate Title III accountability system, is now part of Title I accountability, and in their accountability plans, states must describe their rules for how this student progress is to be accomplished. The law addresses the complex issue of how to include recently arrived ELs in academic assessments by allowing states to choose between two alternatives for Title I accountability during their first 2 years in the system.
  • Overall, states are encouraged to be more innovative in their assessment and accountability systems, including being allowed to use a variety of readiness and engagement indicators (Section (c)(4)(B) (v)), and up to seven states will be allowed to develop Innovative Assessment Pilots that may use locally developed assessments and performance assessments. States are required to develop standardized entry and exit procedures for determining whether a student is an EL that are consistent across districts within the state.
  • Title III directs attention in the state report to long-term ELs—students who have been enrolled in U.S. schools for more than 6 years without being reclassified as English-proficient—and to recently reclassified students.
  • Of symbolic importance, the law replaces the term “limited English proficient” with “English learner.”
  • The law explicitly directs individual states to address early education, which will likely contribute to considerable variation across states in the provision of a sound primary education for children. For ELs, Title III includes preschool teachers under its purposes (Section 3102) for professional development, and it also specifically refers to early childhood education programs as part of the stated purposes of the EL formula subgrants (Section 3115). Further, the nonregulatory guidance document issued by the U.S. Department of Education for Title III notes that the law specifies requirements that local plans include assurance of coordination of activities and data sharing with early learning programs (U.S. Department of Education, 2016).
Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
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  • The law shifts responsibility for early education and pre-K programs to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), with the intent of encouraging coordination with other early childhood programs currently administered by the department, such as Early Head Start, Head Start, and child care programs.

ESSA also includes requirements for family engagement in Titles I, III, and IV. Title I calls for schools to inform parents about placement of their child in a language instruction educational program, the reason for such placement, their child’s level of English proficiency, programs available to their child, assessment results, teacher qualifications, improvement plans, and school report cards. All communications must be provided in a form understandable to the parent and, to the extent practical, in the parents’ home language. Title III requires schools “to promote parental, family, and community participation in language instruction educational programs for the parents, families, and communities of English learners.”17 Within Title IV is a provision for assistance and support to state and local education agencies, schools, and educators for strengthening partnerships with parents and families of ELs. To that end, grants will be awarded to statewide organizations for the establishment of family engagement centers to implement parent and family engagement programs and provide training and technical assistance to state and local education agencies and organizations that support family-school partnerships. The rulemaking process to implement ESSA still needs to be established before the law takes effect beginning in the 2017-2018 school year.

State K-12 Policies Related to Literacy, Language, and Content Learning

Federal assistance to support ELs in grades K-12 is provided through ESSA, Title I, Parts A and B (Migrant Education); Title III English Acquisition state grants, Native American and Alaska Native Children in School (NAM) discretionary grants, and National Professional Development Project grants; and Title VII Indian, Part A Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native Education grants.

States play an important role in implementing the federal policies related to these programs and in ensuring that districts are in compliance with these policies. As previously mentioned, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education issued a “Dear Colleague letter outlining the legal obligations of states, districts, and schools to ELs under civil rights laws (U.S. Department of Justice and

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17 See https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-114s1177enr/pdf/BILLS-114s1177enr.pdf [February 21, 2017].

Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
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U.S. Department of Education, 2015). The letter states that even if state education agencies do not provide educational services directly to ELs, they have a responsibility under civil rights laws to “provide appropriate guidance, monitoring and oversight to school districts to ensure EL students receive appropriate services” (U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education, 2015, p. 6). The letter offers guidance on areas that frequently result in noncompliance by school districts. They include identification and assessment of ELs in a timely, valid, and reliable manner; provision of educationally sound language assistance programs; sufficient staffing and support for language assistance programs; equal opportunities for ELs to participate in all curricular and extracurricular activities; avoidance of unnecessary segregation; evaluation of ELs in a timely and appropriate manner for special education and disability-related services, with language needs considered in evaluations for these services; meeting the needs of ELs who opt out of language assistance programs; monitoring and evaluation of ELs’ progress in language assistance programs; evaluation of the effectiveness of the district’s language assistance programs to ensure that such programs enable ELs to achieve parity of participation in standard instructional programs in a reasonable amount of time; and meaningful communication with parents (U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education, 2015, pp. 8-9). To a large extent, state policy related to K-12 education revolves around finance, identification, reclassification, performance monitoring, standards setting, parent and family involvement, and educator quality. Some states also set policies related to use of the home language for instructional purposes.

States also support ELs by monitoring LEA compliance with state statutes related to ELs, specifying teacher certification and licensing requirements for teachers who serve ELs (see Chapter 10), establishing language proficiency standards aligned with the state’s academic content standards, and annually assessing the English language proficiency and content area knowledge of all ELs. Furthermore, states support ELs by providing additional funds to districts beyond the average per-student dollar amounts. Funding amounts vary significantly among states, but states generally use the same types of funding models (Wixom, 2015):

  • Formula funding—Financial support for EL programs is distributed through the state’s primary funding formula; this is the most common funding method. Funding formulas typically use weights, dollar amounts, or teacher allocations to distribute the funds.
  • Categorical funding—Districts receive EL funds outside of the state’s primary funding formula through budget line items. Funding methods vary from state to state; for example, some states may
Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
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  • provide a dollar amount per child, while others may provide grants for specific programs.

  • Reimbursement—The state reimburses districts for the cost of EL programs after the costs have been accrued and upon approval of the state superintendent. This model allows states to limit funding to certain specific expenses.

According to a recent report from the Education Commission of the States (Wixom, 2015, p. 4), “State funding systems have the potential to incentivize districts to shuffle ELs around different programs depending on funding availability, exit ELs from language programs too quickly or let students remain in EL programs longer than they should.”

CONCLUSIONS

Conclusion 2-1: Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) , states now play a more critical role in providing guidance to and monitoring districts and schools to ensure that English learners (ELs) are not denied services under the law or discriminated against because of their race, ethnicity, or national origin. ESSA provides increased decision-making authority to states regarding the inclusion of ELs in state accountability plans, in how the accountability index for Title I is constructed, in how ELs’ academic achievement and progress toward English language proficiency are assessed, and in how districts respond to schools identified for state assistance.

Conclusion 2-2: As a result of changes in the Every Student Succeeds Act, schools rather than districts are now accountable for English learners’ (ELs’) progress toward English language proficiency. This change may have unintended consequences for many schools with small numbers of ELs that fall below the minimum state-determined sample size for accountability reporting as they are not required to disaggregate outcome data by EL status, making it difficult to track the progress of this subgroup.

Conclusion 2-3: Districts are expected to provide supports to schools in need of assistance and are the policy unit in which much of the improvement work will be carried out. Uncertainty exists as to the capacity of districts to play support roles, whether the state accountability system will provide the required information on English learners’ educational progress, and how states and intermediary agencies will help build and ensure district capacity.

Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
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Conclusion 2-4: Early education programs have diverse funding sources and hence different applicable regulations for program delivery. While Head Start has issued clear guidance concerning what constitutes quality programs for young children and the engagement of families of dual language learners (DLLs), comparable guidance regarding DLLs does not exist for child care and home visiting programs. State-level guidance to state-funded pre-K programs varies by state; few states have addressed standards and practices regarding DLLs.

Conclusion 2-5: Greater state flexibility in accountability under the Every Student Succeeds Act has led to concerns among civil rights and other organizations focused on underserved populations, such as English learners (ELs), about protecting the legal rights of ELs to an appropriate education as guaranteed under the Supreme Court decision in Lau v. Nichols, the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974, and other relevant laws. The Dear Colleague Letter provides an important framework for states in ensuring that ELs are receiving the services to which they are entitled.

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Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
×
Page 58
Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
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Page 59
Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Policy Context." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24677.
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Educating dual language learners (DLLs) and English learners (ELs) effectively is a national challenge with consequences both for individuals and for American society. Despite their linguistic, cognitive, and social potential, many ELs—who account for more than 9 percent of enrollment in grades K-12 in U.S. schools—are struggling to meet the requirements for academic success, and their prospects for success in postsecondary education and in the workforce are jeopardized as a result.

Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures examines how evidence based on research relevant to the development of DLLs/ELs from birth to age 21 can inform education and health policies and related practices that can result in better educational outcomes. This report makes recommendations for policy, practice, and research and data collection focused on addressing the challenges in caring for and educating DLLs/ELs from birth to grade 12.

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