How Can Stimulus Funds Be Used for ELLs? Let’s Count the Ways

By Mary Ann Zehr — March 17, 2009 2 min read
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A group of researchers who are experts on English-language learners and well-respected in the education field are poised to release recommendations this week on how states and school districts should use stimulus funds to improve education for English-language learners.

The group of 14 researchers drew up the recommendations because they didn’t want ELLs to lose out on the benefits of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, said Diane August, a senior research scientist at the Center for Applied Linguistics, who helped convene the group and sent me the document. “We wanted to provide some input. We were quite disappointed there was nothing in the bill that specifically addresses the needs of ELLs,” she told me in a phone interview. Yet they saw the potential for the act to really benefit ELLs, she added. See my earlier post on the subject, “ELLs and the Stimulus Package.”

(March 22 UPDATE: Find the 26-page document here.)

August said some members of the group, which include Kenji Hakuta from Stanford University and Jennifer O’Day from the American Institutes for Research, hope to discuss the recommendations in a meeting with U.S. Department of Education officials this week.

The document describes how seven different parts of the stimulus act can be tapped to improve schooling for ELLs, which they contend very much needs to be improved. Those parts are money for Title I (the section of the No Child Left Behind Act that authorizes funds for disadvantaged students), special education, education technology, statewide data systems, improving teacher quality, Head Start (and Early Head Start), the National Science Foundation, and the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund.

But let us count some of the ways that the researchers envision stimulus money can be used specifically for ELLs: 1) to identify, develop, and purchase instructional materials, 2) to extend learning time, 3) to enhance data collection and reporting to address the English proficiency and the content knowledge of these students, 4) to improve the intensity and quality of professional development focused on instruction suitable for ELLs, and 5) to align the content of preschool programs with the needs of ELLs, with particular attention given to both English and native-language development.

It seems the researchers have put a lot of thought into their recommendations. I recognize many prominent themes in the ELL field, such as that schools must improve in addressing the language and academic content needs of ELLs.

Hopefully they’ll continue to keep watch of the Obama administration’s attention to this group of students. I’m not hearing a word about how priorities are evolving within the Education Department to improve schooling for them.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.