Most States Failing to Meet English-Learner Academic Targets, Report Finds

By Corey Mitchell — October 08, 2018 2 min read
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A new U.S. Department of Education report found that states are struggling to meet their academic targets for English-language learners in mathematics and reading.

The Biennial Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Title III State Formula Grant Program” found that just five states met their goals for helping English-language learners make progress in learning the language and reaching academic targets in mathematics and reading during the 2013-14 school year, the most recent year for which data was submitted.

That’s a slight drop from the 2012-13 school year, when six states reached all the academic benchmarks they set for English-learners in three areas specified by law: progress in learning English, attainment of fluency, and demonstration of proficiency on state content tests in reading and math.

Alabama was the only state to reach its goals in both school years, but the state also had its share of problems. The percentage of students there making progress in learning English dropped by 24 percentage points between the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years.

The new data appear in a report to Congress on the progress of the federal Title III program, which provides funding to states to support instructional services for English-learners.

Under Title III rules, each state sets its own goals for measuring English-learners’ academic progress and growth towards language proficiency. Because of that, the report cautions that “comparing data across states may not necessarily yield meaningful conclusions.”

Here’s a look at some highlights from the report:

  • A growing number of states are using federal funds to support growing immigrant student populations. During the 2013-14 school year, 11 states had more than 5,000 students participate in Title III-supported programs for immigrant children; during the 2012-13 school year, seven states reached that mark.
  • Overall, 93 percent of the nation’s English-learners are participating in programs paid for with funds under Title III. The department awarded $640 million in state grants under Title III in the 2013-14 school year.
  • The top five home or native languages of English-learners are Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese (the report did not distinguish between Cantonese and Mandarin), Arabic, and Haitian Creole.
  • Over the past decade, English-learner enrollment in K-12 schools has increased by more than 100 percent in 11 states.
  • Amid an ELL teacher shortage, states projected needing an additional 76,000 certified or licensed teachers to work with English-learners over the next five years.

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Schools Are Falling Short for Many English-Learners

English-Learners and ESSA: Many States Are Lowering Academic Goals, Advocates Charge

Few Aspiring Teachers Aim to Work With English-Learners, Report Finds

Immigrant Influxes Put U.S. Schools to the Test

Image: U.S. Department of Education, office of English language acquisition

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