A recent study by the Center for American Progress suggests that a two-generation approach is the best way to help educate English Language Learners (ELLs). Numerous studies have shown that parental engagement in school yields higher levels of academic achievement. This is even more so the case for children with greater educational barriers, such as low income levels, low family educational attainment, or immigrant status. ELLs are more likely than non-ELLs to encounter these barriers. However, for the same reasons a two-generation approach is needed, parental engagement programs are difficult to initiate. Low-income parents face greater challenges when it comes to balancing work and family responsibility, and ELLs often struggle with the added challenge of a language barrier. The study shows the ways that communities can successfully implement a two-generation approach in order to close the language gap and expand opportunities for English learners.
These methods include: adopting the community school model to provide critical wraparound services for students and families, implementing extended learning time to ensure that students have additional instruction critical to help them learn English while learning their curricula, prioritizing family engagement at school to help parents become better advocates for their children, creating workforce-development programs with English as a second language, or ESL, classes and wraparound services, and prioritizing ELL training for teachers. Under the current law, traditionally underserved students receive federal funding. However, earlier this year, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and House Representative John Kline’s (R-MN) proposed the Student Success Act and the Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2015, respectively. This legislation would eliminate the targeting of federal financial support to schools with a concentrated low-income student population and would limit resources for English language learners.
Ensuring greater access to English language instruction is one of the most significant ways that communities can respond to potential changes in the immigration system, as well as ongoing shifts in the nation’s demographics. Last November’s Presidential Memorandum focused on creating welcoming communities and fully integrating immigrants and refugees. President Barack Obama said, “By focusing on the civic, economic, and linguistic integration of new Americans, we can help immigrants and refugees in the United States contribute fully to our economy and their communities.”