English Language Learners (ELL)

Students learn new skills and concepts every day —but learning comes with an extra set of challenges for more than 4 million English language learner (ELL) students.

Along with the daily routine of tackling a variety of subjects, ELL students are developing fluency in a new language. They’re trying to understand new content through a language they have limited proficiency in, are navigating a new school with an unfamiliar culture, and are more likely to live in low-income families and attend schools that are under-resourced and underemployed.

Afterschool and expanded learning programs nationwide play a central role in helping ELL students thrive. Afterschool programs allow for more flexibility and time, and therefore serve as a great platform for providing the extra enrichment and English language practice it will take to help students and schools achieve their goals.

Because of the greater flexibility, afterschool programs are often better able to take advantage of the assets that ELL students bring to the table, such as their knowledge of other places, languages, customs and cultures. By supporting relationships and interactions among English language-speaking students and ELLs, all students – and even staff – benefit and are better prepared for increasingly diverse workplaces and communities.

Useful Resources:

After-School Programs Might Help English-Language Learners Improve Reading Skills

The number of ELL students has grown steadily over the past decade, according to the brief, and they speak more than 30 different languages with 3 in 4 living with families who speak Spanish. “ELL students represent at least 6 percent of the public school population in almost half of U.S. states,” according to the brief. The achievement gap in reading scores between ELL students and non-ELL students showed up in the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), often called the nation’s report card: 68 percent of ELL fourth graders scored below basic compared to 27 percent of non-ELL students. In eighth grade it was 71 percent versus 21 percent; and in 12th grade it was 76 percent to 26 percent respectively.

Taking a Comprehensive Approach to Support English Language Learners and Their Families

More than 4 million English language learners (ELL)—students who receive language assistance, such as bilingual education and High Intensity Language Training—attend public schools nationwide. This growing and diverse population faces myriad challenges and needs a coordinated system of support to help them build literacy skills and thrive. Afterschool programs are uniquely positioned to serve both ELL students and their families.

Blueprint for English Language Learner/ Multilingual Learner Success

The mission of the New York State Education Department’s (NYSED) Office of Bilingual Education and World Languages (OBEWL) is to ensure that all New York State (NYS) students, including English Language Learners/ Multilingual Learners (ELLs/MLLs), attain the highest level of academic success and language proficiency. We strive to ensure that all students’ individual educational paths and socio-emotional needs are met in multiple languages leading them to college and career readiness. NYSED believes that all teachers are teachers of ELLs/MLLs.

English Language Learners: Becoming Fluent in Afterschool

Afterschool programs in which literacy is a component offer the potential to provide ELLs with much needed support, not just academically, but socially and culturally as well. English Language Learners (ELLs), a diverse group of individuals from across the world who are learning English for the first time, make up the fastest growing segment of the student population in United States public schools. The large number of immigrants to the U.S. over the past decade and a half has lead to a surge in the number of ELL students in U.S. public schools with more than 1 in 10 public school students classified as an ELL in 2008. Between 1995 and 2005, nationwide enrollment of ELLs increased by 57 percent. This does not represent an even distribution throughout the U.S. though. Certain states experienced an especially large surge in their ELL population, and many schools are failing to adjust to the rapid population shifts and new needs of their heavily ELL student population.

Afterschool Helps English Language Learners Thrive

Given the challenges facing ELL students, schools need additional support to meet their needs and ensure academic success. Afterschool programs offer a host of supports. They provide a culturally sensitive atmosphere, use a variety of learning approaches to help build literacy skills, provide family support, foster community and school partnerships, and engage students to promote motivation and interest. Research shows that ELL students who participate in afterschool programs see academic improvements; ELL students participating in afterschool programs performed better on a statewide English language test and were more likely to be redesignated as English proficient.

ESL Lessons & Help

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A Race Against the Clock

Time is of the essence for children learning English. Kindergarten English language learners enter school with a vocabulary of 5,000 English words fewer than their native English-speaking peers. ELLs must not only learn a new language; they must keep pace with their English-proficient classmates who are continuing to rapidly grow their vocabulary and further develop their already advanced literacy skills. More than two-thirds (69 percent) of English language learners are citizens by birth or naturalization and begin their education in U.S. schools, but for those newcomers who enter the U.S. school system in later grades, time and the constraints of the traditional school day pose a particularly serious challenge.

English Learners and Out-of-School Time Programs

Out-of-School-Time (OST) programs offer the ability to expand the school day and provide English learner (EL) students with more time in educational settings that help to address the dual learning challenges they face. Research shows that this additional time can make a difference if used effectively. To that end, this brief highlights research-supported ways in which OST programs might be particularly well suited to support EL students during that extra time.