Russellville High School ESL teacher Edmund Martinez works with students in Russellville, Ala., on December 9, 2022.
English Learners Project

The Language of Equity

A district’s journey to truly serve its English learners

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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.

Part 1

  • Once Resistant, An Alabama Town Now Sees Its English Learners as Its Future
    What happened when a school district changed its culture and invested in young English learner supports?

Part 2