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US dual-language schools failing English learners

A report by The Century Foundation (TCF) has found that the number of ELs in dual-language immersion (DLI) programmes is falling compared to their English-dominant counterparts. Research conducted over a five-year period suggests more English-dominant students are being enrolled in the schools, causing ELs to miss out on key education.

A study taken between 2015 and 2020 showed how EL enrolment was shrinking in some communities across the US. By contrast, enrolment of white, English-dominant students is on the rise. TCF say this should “trigger alarm bells.”

“ELs face systemic educational challenges rooted in language, race, class, and nativity. These students are disproportionately likely to be children of color and disproportionately likely to be growing up in low-income households.”

The “enthusiasm” of white, middle-class families towards these programmes may be what is pushing ELs out. In an opinion piece, The 74 Million suggests “high demand for dual language from privileged, English-dominant, and often white families displaces less-privileged ELs.”

In order to address these problems, TCF believe some steps to take are:

  • States offering grants to create or expand DLI programmes.
  • States establishing “provisional teacher licenses” in order to grow the number of non-English teachers available. This would mean allowing adults with at least a bachelor’s degree and proficiency in the target language to teach.
  • States prioritising equitable access for ELs into DLI programmes.

Evidence shows DLI programmes are helping ELs to learn English while maintaining the language they speak at home, which supports their “long-term linguistic and academic development.” With the increase in demand from communities across the US, it is integral the programmes remain fair and equitable to children less privileged than others.

Image courtesy of Katerina Holmes
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