As the election approaches, one issue which is sure to be at the forefront of debate is education. According to the U.S. department of Education (2016), the percentage of public school students in the United States who were English language learners (ELL) was higher in school year 2013–14 (9.3 percent, or an estimated 4.5 million students) than in 2012–13 (9.2 percent, or an estimated 4.4 million students). Therefore, it is clear to see that there are an increasing number of pupils who will need extra support throughout their schooling, in order to successfully progress. The million-dollar question is- what should the presidential candidates do to provide for this increasing need?
Democratic education consultant, Darriane Newberry, believes that more funding should go into to ELL programs, in order to help students easily transition into a school community.
“It is very hard for them to understand what is going on in the classroom and it doesn’t help that when they go home they probably only talk in their native language. I think that having more interpreters, or people that can help the students learn the language and help them understand what is really going on in the class.”
ELL students can be assisted through technology, books and routine. Robyn Scott, ELL teacher with ten years’ experience, discusses a few ways in which teachers themselves can provide for English language learners. These include using art to express their culture, using graphics to aid in communication and simply show patience, tolerance and perspective.
However, republican education consultant Stephanie Salm believes that teachers should use their training to provide for these students. “I believe that the best way to change experiences of ELL in the classroom would be to make learning experiences more visual through online learning. In doing so, every student is able to not only follow the curriculum at the same pace as the other students but also able to understand and value their education. If students are able to learn at a more suitable level through visual learning, this will not only help further education but also save money in the future.”
Indeed, schools themselves can find ways to use their budgets in ways which favor ELL programmes. They can spend more of their overall budget to specifically provide for ELL student through resources, extra learning support and classroom assistants.
The US government currently invests $67.1 billion in to education, and the question remains- is this enough? Or should more money be invested in to English Language Learner programs specifically? All eyes are on the potential candidates’ education plans in the forthcoming debates.
U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2016). The Condition of Education 2016 (NCES 2016-144), English Language Learners in Public Schools.
http://www.edutopia.org/blog/practices-to-welcome-and-support-ells-robyn-scott (Accessed 9.16.16)
http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/regions/west/pdf/REL_2016155.pdf (Accessed 9.18.16)
https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=96 (Accessed 9.18.16)