Throughout discussions of academic rigor and higher education accessibility, language levels are often left out. The experience of high school English learners has been growing in popularity amongst educators and policymakers due to the growing demographic within California and in the United States. In the 2018-19 school year, California educators were responsible for educating “approximately 1.196 million English learners in California public schools,” according to the California Department of Education 2019 data report. Additionally, the National Center for Education Statistics, ELLs are the fastest growing segment of the K–12 student population and are predicted to represent 25% of all public school students by 2025. The number of English Learners within our public schools is clearly increasing and the expectation is that this trend continues upwardly. For this reason, one would assume that our teaching practices and policies also trend towards the support of this growing subset of students within our schools but the academic achievement data for English Learners proves otherwise.
Unfortunately, studies presenting academic achievement data for English Learners constantly put them at the bottom of subgroups represented. The California School Dashboard 2018 State Performance Overview found that English Learners in the state are 6 points below standard for English Language Arts and a shocking 36.4 points below standard in the area of math. The study also reported that English learners are graduating from high school at rates less than their peers and being suspended at rates higher than their peers. With the projected increase in English Learner population, it’s time to update our teaching practices and school systems to reflect this changing demographic and provide stronger linguistic supports for all students.
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