New Federal K-12 Law Fails to Address ‘Value of Bilingualism,’ ELL Scholars Say

By Corey Mitchell — January 11, 2016 1 min read
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A group of leading English-language learner scholars says the Every Student Succeeds Act does more to address the needs of English-learners, but falls short in “addressing the value of bilingualism.”

The Working Group on ELL Policy, a band of nationally-known researchers in the field, released a statement praising the law’s efforts to promote academic achievement and supply additional support for English-learners.

Educators were split on whether changes spurred by the No Child Left Behind Act, ESSA’s predecessor, were positive or negative overall for English-learners. A similar The debate over the nation’s newest federal education law began well before President Obama signed the bill into law and likely will continue for years.

The four-page document from the Working Group on ELL Policy highlights the new law’s intent to boost parent and family engagement and teacher development, shine light on the performance of ELLs with disabilities, and stress the importance of early-childhood education.

But their statement didn’t mince words on what the group saw as a major shortcoming: failing to make multilingualism a priority for all students in the United States.

“ESSA remains silent in addressing the value of bilingualism and biliteracy not only for ELs but also for language majority students. This is unfortunate given the surging commitment of states in recent years to foster both through initiatives such as the seal of biliteracy,” the group wrote.

The authors later add that: “The law also misses an opportunity to set expectations for states to establish systems of school and district support that promote improved achievement of ELs.”

Kenji Hakuta, a Stanford University education professor, and Robert Linquanti, a senior research associate at WestEd, a San Francisco-based research group, prepared the document in consultation with other leading scholars.

In an Education Week special report, we examined how ELL advocates are hopeful and wary of the new K-12 law. The law takes full effect in the 2017-18 school year.

Here’s a look at the Working Group on ELL Policy statement:

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