New bill would equip future teachers to better support English learners

Teacher shortages are common across the United States. However, there are several high-need areas where this shortage is most profound.

For most states, as their English Learner (ELs) population grows, it has become abundantly clear that they need more educators able to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) or at a minimum, have the skills necessary to support the nearly 4.6 million English Learners in our classrooms.

Though ELs face many barriers to success, one glaring issue is a lack of access to high-quality, well-trained teachers. Gone are the days of ELs being taught in separate classrooms where their instruction was focused on language acquisition.

Instead, ELs are being taught in general education classrooms where they can make both language and academic progress, as they should be. Most teachers will encounter an EL in their classrooms at some point in their careers and must be prepared to support them.

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Providing English Language Learners the Support Needed to Succeed

By Para Los Niños

Keeping in step with our integrated approach to educating the whole child—emotional, social, and psychological needs—within the context of their family history and needs, Para Los Niños is building a foundation for engaged learning and academic success for our English Language Learner (ELL) students. These students face the unique challenge of becoming proficient in English while also learning grade-level content in English.

Our charter schools offer students a rigorous academic experience, but we know students have the best opportunity to succeed when their families are valued for the assets they bring to our schools. By creating a culturally and linguistically aware community, Para Los Niños puts families at the center of their child’s education.

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The Senate Has Voted to Rollback Civil Rights Protections for America’s Children

When the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law last year, there was bipartisan support for strong systems that would hold schools responsible for the success of each child. However, yesterday the Senate stripped these provisions from the law on a narrow vote of 50-49. As ESSA is a civil rights law, it’s critical that the nation’s signature education policy include protections for our nation’s underserved communities. The protections the Senate voted down would have helped ensure that states are developing accountability systems that serve all of America’s children.

“Today’s repeal undermines important civil rights protections under ESSA that NCLR and other civil rights groups have worked so hard to secure for Latino students, English learners, and other underserved children,” said NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía.

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Eliminating ESSA Accountability Regulations Will Not Help American Students

Including strong accountability regulations in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was critical to NCLR’s support for the law. We worked closely with stakeholders and the Obama administration to help draft and provide meaningful feedback on those rules, which are designed to better track and improve children’s educational performance. However, the recent House vote to strip ESSA of those accountability protections is cause for concern. If the repeal succeeds, it could have dramatic consequences for children around the country.

The accountability regulations guiding states on how to craft their ESSA state plans were finalized this past November. Under ESSA, states were given considerable leeway to create their own accountability plans. However, ensuring equity requires a strong federal responsibility to step in when schools consistently fail to meet the needs of low-income and minority children. The Trump administration has been vocal about their opposition to these accountability protections, and this sentiment was acted on by the House vote to overturn them. Even though a letter from Secretary DeVos encouraged states to continue their planned timelines, she also emphasized that the U.S. Department of Education would be assessing the law in hopes of requiring only what they view as absolutely necessary under ESSA.

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ESSA Implications for Latinos and English Learners

By Dr. Christopher R. McBride, Mariposa Academy of Language and Learning
(This is cross-posted from the National Institute for Latino School Leaders Blog.)

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Latino students represent one of four students in classrooms across the United States and are projected to represent about one in three students by 2030. There are nearly five million English learner (EL) students and 80 percent of them are Spanish speakers. Furthermore, in 2013 only about 61 percent of EL students graduated high school compared to an average of about 75 percent of Hispanic students and over 86 percent of White students. Clearly our Latino and EL populations are growing and we, as a nation, are not meeting their educational needs. If we do not do a better job educating these students to prepare them to succeed in college and life afterward, we will all suffer.

Aware of the facts around Latino and EL students, the question weighing on the minds of many educational leaders is, “How will the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) impact our ability to close the achievement gap for Latinos and English learners?” The answer to this question is that it depends on the specific implementation in your state. ESSA has provided for increased funding for ELs by increasing Title III authorization levels. ESSA also leaves greater discretion to states to develop suitable accountability systems for when they are failing groups of students and has moved accountability for ELs from Title III to Title I. Therefore, it is critical to the success of Latinos and ELs students that states adopt provisions to better track and improve the educational performance of ELs.

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Weekly Washington Outlook — November 30, 2015

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What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

House:

On Monday, the House will vote on legislation under suspension of the rules:

  • 611– Grassroots Rural and Small Community Water Systems Assistance Act (Sponsored by Sen. Roger Wicker / Energy and Commerce Committee)
  • R. 3490– Strengthening State and Local Cyber Crime Fighting Act (Sponsored by Rep. John Ratcliffe / Judiciary Committee)
  • R. 3279– Open Book on Equal Access to Justice Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Doug Collins / Judiciary Committee)
  • R. 1755– To amend title 36, United States Code, to make certain improvements in the congressional charter of the Disabled American Veterans, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Miller / Judiciary Committee)
  • R. 2288– To remove the use restrictions on certain land transferred to Rockingham County, Virginia, and for other purposes (Sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte / Natural Resources Committee)
  • R. 1541– PRISM Act (Sponsored by Rep. Raul Grijalva / Natural Resources Committee)
  • R. 2212– To take certain Federal lands located in Lassen County, California, into trust for the benefit of the Susanville Indian Rancheria, and for other purposes (Sponsored by Rep. Doug LaMalfa / Natural Resources Committee)
  • R. 2270– Billy Frank Jr. Tell Your Story Act (Sponsored by Rep. Denny Heck / Natural Resources Committee)
  • 1170– Breast Cancer Research Stamp Reauthorization Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Dianne Feinstein / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

The balance of the week, the House will consider the following:

  • R. 8– North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton / Energy and Commerce Committee)
  • J. Res. 23– Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of a rule submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency relating to “Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions from New, Modified, and Reconstructed Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units” (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Sen. Mitch McConnell / Energy and Commerce Committee)
  • J. Res 24– Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of a rule submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency relating to “Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units” (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito / Energy and Commerce Committee)

In addition, the House is expected to vote on the conference report to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and another conference report to reauthorize surface transportation programs.

Senate:

The Senate will vote on Monday evening on an executive nomination. Later in the week, the Senate may debate a revised version of House-passed budget reconciliation legislation.

White House:

While the White House did not release an official schedule this week, the president will be in Paris attending a climate summit.

Also this Week:

Education – The House will vote on a bipartisan conference report to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (last rewritten as No Child Left Behind) this week. The Senate is expected to follow next week. While the language, released Monday, clearly reflects a compromise, the provisions for English Learners are substantial. For the first time, ELs will be included in a state’s accountability system. The report also establishes standard entry and exit procedures for ELs, includes strong parent notification language, and creates new reporting requirements on ELs with disabilities and long-term ELs. That said, the accountability language delegates much to states and districts to ensure groups of students are meeting challenging goals.

Tax – The House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee this week will continue their negotiations over making certain business tax credits and expansions to the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit permanent. These credits were enhanced in 2009 as part of the stimulus, but these enhancements expire in 2017. An agreement could be reached in the coming days. However, it has been reported that any possible deal would include a number of “program integrity” provisions targeted at immigrants. Of the options mentioned in news accounts, one would require those applying for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to appear in-person; another would prohibit future DAPA recipients from retroactively amending their tax returns for up to three years to claim the EITC.

Appropriations – There are just two weeks left to pass a spending bill to fund the government beyond December 11. This week, Appropriators are expected to receive their 302(b) allocations, the topline amount for each agency. While the Administration has remained firmly opposed to all controversial policy riders, some lawmakers may still seek language to undermine Dodd-Frank, curtail refugee resettlement, and others.

Puerto Rico – On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Puerto Rico’s financial situation. Puerto Rico’s Governor and the Resident Commissioner are both scheduled to testify. While the Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over bankruptcy reform, Chairman Grassley has been reluctant to move forward without other fiscal and regulatory reforms on the Commonwealth. Also this week, Puerto Rican members of Congress including Reps. Velazquez (D-N.Y.) and Serrano (D-N.Y.) are assisting in coordination of a Puerto Rico Day of Action on December 2. Members and advocates will ask Congress to act to help address Puerto Rico’s financial and humanitarian situation.

Health – The Senate may take-up a revised version of House-passed budget reconciliation legislation to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, originally including the employer and individual mandates. However, the Senate Parliamentarian ruled that these provisions could not be altered in the reconciliation process, as they do not relate to revenue or spending. Under budget reconciliation, the Senate only needs a majority rather than sixty votes to move forward. In addition to the ACA provisions, the legislation would also block Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funding.

Immigration – The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday, “Oversight of the Administration’s Criminal Alien Removal Policies.” Elsewhere, it is possible the Senate may move in the coming days to take up legislation related to refugees. Additional House hearings on this subject are also likely.

How Will Our Education System Serve English Learners?

Sen. Patty Murray

Sen. Patty Murray

Efforts are underway in Congress to rewrite No Child Left Behind, hear about what this means for English Learners and Latino students this Thursday!

Join Senator Patty Murray (D–Wash.), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and NCLR Senior Vice President Delia Pompa for a call on reforming the nation’s education system.

This call is closed to the press.

Details:

Date: Thursday, June 4 2015
Time: 2:30 p.m. EST
RSVP: acollins@nclr.org

Call-in number: (866) 952-1907
Conference ID: Reform
Program Title: Education Reform

Five Changes the New No Child Left Behind Makes for English Learners

By Brenda Calderon, Policy Analyst, Education Policy Project, NCLR

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This week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee unanimously passed Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray  600-page bipartisan bill, the “Every Child Achieves Act” (ECAA) to make updates to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). ESEA, the nation’s largest federal K–12 law, best known as “No Child Left Behind,” has played a key role in providing aid to disadvantaged students from low-income communities.

Earlier this year, NCLR released its recommendations on Title III of ESEA, the provision dealing with English learners (ELs). As highlighted in our statistical brief, there are nearly five million ELs in the United States, 80 percent of whom are Spanish speakers. NCLR believes that having a strong federal role is important in getting ELs college- and career-ready. There are significant changes throughout the bill, but the changes highlighted here focus specifically on English learners.

  1. Accountability moved to state plans. Under current law, states receiving funds under Title III must hold schools accountable for increasing the number and percentage of ELs attaining proficiency along with other provisions. While this section of the bill was removed in the new version, all states are now accountable for moving ELs from the lowest levels of English proficiency to the state-determined proficient level and this criteria must be demonstrated in state plans.
  1. Eliminates Part B. No Child Left Behind offered a slew of competitive grant programs to enhance language instruction programs. These are nestled within the “Part B” section. It includes grants for professional development and funds for districts experiencing large influxes of immigrant children and youth. These programs were eliminated in the ECAA.
  1. New standardized entrance and exit procedures for ELs. Identification of ELs varies widely across and within states, meaning that a student may be identified as an EL in one district, but as a non-EL in another. The ECAA tries to remedy this by establishing standardized statewide entrance and exit procedures for students identified as ELs. It also sets a timeline for students to be assessed for EL status within 30 days of enrollment.

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  1. Evaluations removed. Under NCLB, entities that use Title III funds shall provide for an evaluation every two years that includes a description of the programs, progress of ELL students, the number and percentage of ELs meeting state academic standards, and other metrics. While this provision is no longer in the bill, the Secretary of Education must now conduct an evaluation of Title III programs.
  1. New categories of ELs. The ECAA creates reporting requirements on progress of two new EL categories: long-term EL and EL with a disability. A long-term EL is a student who has been in EL services for a minimum of five years. An EL with a disability is one who meets the criteria described in section 602 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

For more detailed information on changes to Title III please see our side-by-side.

Creating a Climate of Possibility for Latino Youth

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By Jennifer Mayer-Glenn, Assistant Principal, Glendale Middle School, National Institute for Latino School Leaders Fellow, NCLR

(Cross-posted from the National Institute for Latino School Leaders blog)

I recently watched Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk on school leadership for the fourth time. Each time I understand more deeply and clearly the role of a school leader. Robinson says the “real role of leadership” is to create a climate of possibility. As I reflect on student populations like the one at the school where I am a leader, there has not been a climate of possibility for most students for many years. Our diverse population of refugees, children of refugees, new immigrants, children of new immigrants, English learners, and generations of under-served students need us to create that climate of possibility.

Watch Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk below:

Our students need schools that provide an education that is individualized and personalized. At Glendale Middle School in Salt Lake City we work to create varied personalized programs or projects that “hook” our students to their learning so that they can see the purpose and possibility. What is more culturally relevant for a student than working on a project to improve one’s own community or making a movie about a current issue at school?

School leaders must also create a climate of possibility for their teachers. Students have been conditioned into believing that they cannot achieve at high academic levels, as have many teachers. They too believe that their students are not able to achieve at high academic levels. If teachers and students alike do not believe it is possible, then it is not possible. Our job is to create a system to support teachers to know what is possible and to develop the heart, the will and the skill to make the change necessary for our Latino students and English learners to achieve at high levels.

In addition to creating a climate of possibility is the necessity to create a well run system that insists on high quality instruction and assessment, and the use of data to drive instruction, intervention and professional development. The Common Core State Standards are a rigorous tool to focus teachers and students on high expectations. Forbes Magazine’s list of The Eight Characteristics of Effective School Leaders mirrors what is possible and what our students need: high expectations, relentlessness, personal development of every student, rich opportunity within and out of the classroom, partnerships with parents and the community, and rigorous data analysis.

As we continue the work to create climates of possibilities for our students and teachers we may find ourselves achieving things we never would have expected.

Go Slow to Go Fast

By Kevin Myers, National Institute for Latino school Leaders Fellow, NCLR

(Cross-posted from the National Institute for Latino School Leaders Blog)

NILSL_Feb14_blogpic1Students walk into a classroom with an innate trust in teachers.  They trust teachers to educate, to support academically and emotionally, and they trust teachers to guide them through a year of overall development.  With all of the different facets of teaching and the pressure of testing accountability bearing down on them, balancing the needs of all students is a difficult undertaking.   To be effective, teachers need to juggle many different tasks, countless student needs, and hundreds of varying resources.

When working with populations of students with a high percentage of English learners, maintaining focus and balancing all of these plates at once is even more important.  It’s easy to get lost in the myriad of “To Dos” that pop onto a teachers task list, but I believe there are three important strategies that teachers need to use on a daily basis to ensure that they are effective with their English learners and with all of their students.  In order to maintain that innate trust students have in educators, we must initiate frequent checks for understanding, provide meaningful and immediate feedback, and build relationships with kids.

As the kids pile through the classroom door, a million different cues and must-dos run through a teacher’s head.  Attendance, Do Nows, passing back work, classroom procedures, correcting behavior, and starting a lesson are all thoughts zooming around in a teacher’s mind, colliding with each other and creating a lot of internal chaos.  When this happens to me, I like to think back to something I heard during an Inquiry by Design professional development session.  The trainer said to the class, “You need to go slow so you can go fast.”  This seems like a paradox at first, but in actuality, it’s wonderful advice!  When all of the tasks and stresses of teaching start to collide, it’s imperative for teachers to take a breath and slow down.  One strategy for slowing down is to plan frequent checks for understanding into a lesson.

NILSL_Feb14_blogpic2Kids need for teachers to focus on the lesson and what is currently being taught, not what else still needs to be done during that period.  When teachers use strategies like Think-Pair-Share, Thumbs-Up/Thumbs-Down, or evaluating an idea by showing a number of fingers (1-4 seems to be effective), kids have time to process what is being taught during the lesson.  By intentionally taking the time to pause and check in with students, teachers are ensuring that kids are ready to move on to the next step.  When the kids are ready to move on, teachers won’t have to spend stressful minutes going back and re-teaching.  If teachers take time to make sure kids are with them through checks for understanding, they will definitely be more effective with all students, including our English learners.

With a million things on our minds, it would be easy for an educator to get bogged down in the stress and the obligation of everyday work.  But if we peel back the curtain to get a glimpse of the reason we all got into this field, we will see the students.  We all want to be effective educators so our kids can be successful, and if we take the time to go slow- to check for understanding, to provide feedback, and to build relationships- we will be effective indeed.