City Schools Offer Guidance on English Learners

A new report from the Council of the Great City Schools suggests a wide range of actions that schools and districts can take to help English learners (ELs) make up for the educational opportunities lost during the first few months of school closures due to the pandemic. Supporting English Learners in the COVID-19 Crisis makes recommendations on all sorts of crucial decisions such as which technology to use when, how to assess what ELs missed during shutdown, how specific professional development for all educators who work with ELs can help, how to encourage family engagement, and how to deploy aides and English-learner specialists to help afford students one-to-one or small-group learning support during remote classes.

The Council of the Great City Schools is a membership organization of the country’s large, urban school systems, which not only educate a higher percentage of the nation’s ELs but also are more reliant on remote education this semester than smaller districts.

Among the recommendations to address the heightened needs of English learners, the report calls for school districts to adopt a systems-oriented approach to EL services that is supported by all departments:

Schools and educators need district guidance on how to plan instruction, even in the absence of annual English-proficiency assessment scores, to continue progress in developing English proficiency.

Schools require clear guidance on how to determine needed levels of support in content-area instruction, the number of periods and delivery of English language development, and necessary monitoring and supports for recently redesignated ELs.

Districts need to determine how stand-alone ELD classes are delivered during remote or hybrid instruction, particularly with high school courses that may be credit bearing and in districts that have strict ELD time allocations delineated in state law, in state regulation, or in compliance agreements with the U.S. Department of Justice or the Office for Civil Rights.

Teachers need long-term, hands-on professional development and ongoing coaching to build capacity to meet the needs of ELs, especially in using technology to deliver remote or hybrid instruction.

The report continues with recommendations on “greater use of well-designed and universally understood graphics and carefully curated information” during enrollment, screening, and placement; making learning for ELs accelerated rather than remedial; ensuring that every district’s EL program includes attention to the development of English proficiency; including dedicated time for targeted English language development (focused language study) regardless of instructional modality—remote, hybrid, or in person; and providing instruction that emphasizes language through content, or discipline-specific academic language enrichment (DALE).

The full report is available at https://www.cgcs.org/cms/lib/DC00001581/Centricity/domain/35/publication%20docs/CGCS_ELL%20and%20COVID_web_v2.pdf.

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