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English-Language Learners

How Will Schools Teach English-Language Learners This Fall?

By Corey Mitchell — September 20, 2020 2 min read

Most of the nation’s nearly five million English-language learners are returning to classes, whether virtual or in-person, after a months-long stretch of distance learning where they were separated from the educators who are key to their academic success.

How those students and their teachers rebound from the struggles tied to the school shutdowns of the spring could depend on guidance from their states and school districts about how to recover from learning loss and reconnect with families.

To help educators and state leaders take a look at what others are doing around the country, Amaya Garcia, the deputy director for English-learner education with the education policy program at New America, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, compiled a national database of state guidance and resources for English-learner education.

The resource reveals that some states—Alabama, Colorado, Minnesota, and Washington among them—offered in-depth guidance on distance learning, including tips on how to identify English-learners and best support their language development. A handful of states also spelled out schools’ legal obligations to teach English-learners, including the need to provide information to families in their preferred language.

But other states, such as Alaska and Kansas, offered little or no specific guidance for educating English-learners, the review found.

“The discrepancies across states are unsurprising; however, the lack of guidance in some states is cause for concern,” Garcia wrote in a blog post introducing the database.

By most accounts, many English-learners struggled during the spring school closures designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus—and many have not yet returned for in-person instruction as districts weigh whether to physically reopen schools. Faced with the likelihood that English-learners’ English-language skills could further regress this fall, several states have urged districts to prioritize in-person learning for English-learners and other groups of students with specialized education needs.

Related Reading

Bridging Distance for Learners With Special Needs

Students in Special Education, English-Learners May Go Back to Class First. Here’s Why

Schools Lean on Staff Who Speak Students’ Language to Keep English-Learners Connected

Photo Credit: Caption: A Los Angeles Unified School District student attends an online class at Boys & Girls Club of Hollywood in Los Angeles. The facility is open for children whose parents must leave home to work.(Jae C. Hong/AP)

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