How Long Have Your Students Been ELLs?

By Mary Ann Zehr — September 08, 2008 1 min read
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In a commentary published Friday at, Joanne Jacobs, an education writer and blogger, draws attention to how long-term English-language learners can end up being shut out of a challenging curriculum.

If he’s not reclassified by middle school, José may sit through the same English-language-development classes he took in elementary school, classes designed for newcomers. He may leave the mainstream to take classes taught in simplified English. Expectations are low. Performance is lower. The dropout rate is astronomical for long-term English-learners, sometimes known as “lifers.”

There’s that word “lifers,” again, which I really hate to hear anyone use because it seems to imply that the students have done something wrong, when more likely, it’s schools that have failed them.

But Ms. Jacobs is right that many educators do not really look closely at the data in their schools to determine how long some English-language learners have been classified as such and what it has meant for their educational prospects over the long run.

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