English learners are among the fastest-growing student populations in the United States, including in the South, where the appeal of job opportunities and cheaper cost-of-living are drawing new arrivals—and where these communities are now putting down roots. Federal and state funding for educating ELs has failed to keep pace with these demographic changes, and the nation’s complicated patchwork of instructional policies have made it harder to create a coherent program to serve their specific needs.
Through the lens of one small school district in Alabama, this special reporting project aims to tell a uniquely American education story. It’s about how the district used its pandemic relief funds to fill in needed gaps for its increased EL population. It’s a story of changed attitudes and unexpected advocates. And it’s a story about how those successes are still tenuous and incomplete.
It’s the story of Russellville, Alabama.
- After Early Success With English Learners, Can a District Keep Its Momentum?The Alabama school system's gains are threatened by time-limited funding, unaddressed needs at the secondary level, and moribund state policy.
- English-Language Learners In Their Own Words A Bilingual Aide Explains the Value of Representation for English LearnersElizabeth Alonzo now provides the support she didn't get in school: Someone who speaks and values her first language.English-Language Learners In Their Own Words What's the Right Mindset for Teaching English Learners? A Teacher ExplainsTeachers need the right dispositions to help English learners—but district leaders set the stage.
- English-Language Learners Infographic The Growth of Hispanic Students and English Learners Nationwide—in ChartsAs the demographic makeup of public school students changes, districts need to evaluate how well they are serving their students.English-Language Learners Video Witnessing Change in a 'Little Town for Latinos’: An English Learner’s JourneyBorn in Russellville, Ala., to immigrant parents from El Salvador, Brian Santos reflects on his journey as an EL student.