New grant to help charters improve education of ELs

New grant to help charters improve education of ELs

(Calif.) More than $7 million will be spent over three years to improve and expand professional development for those charged with teaching English learners attending charter schools in Los Angeles and across Texas.

Ensemble Learning–a non-profit organization based in Oakland that supports improvement of charter schools nationwide–was among the recipients that shared approximately $75 million in grants recently awarded by the U.S. Department of Education.

“We're excited to report that we have been selected as a recipient of the Department of Education SEED grant program,” the organization tweeted Wednesday. “This grant will provide us funding to create several cohorts of schools interested in working on improving their support for English learners.”

Officials from Ensemble, which was formerly known as The College-Ready Promise, say the funding will be used to provide research-based training and support to 80 leadership teams to help them increase their effectiveness working with English learners; create a pipeline of 640 future school leaders trained to be impactful principals; and disseminate a research-based system used to develop principals and school teams to inform districts and charter schools nationwide.

According to U.S. Department of Education data, English learners now comprise more than 4.8 million student, or close to 10 percent of total enrollment. And they are diverse, speaking more than 400 different non-English languages.

Many face challenges outside the classroom. Nationally, slightly more than 14 percent of ELs are homeless, and almost 50 percent are children of migrant workers, meaning they are likely to move often.

Castilian Spanish is the most common non-English language, spoken by about 77 percent of all ELs in the U.S., followed by Arabic at 2.3 percent, Chinese at 2.2 percent, and Vietnamese at 1.8 percent.

While California and Texas are home to the largest school districts with the most EL students, pockets exist throughout the country where schools must address the needs of various communities. In Vermont, for instance, 21 percent of ELs speak Nepali, and another 8 percent speak Cushitic, the common language of Somalia and Ethiopia.

In Maine, a third of ELs speak Somali, with another 13 percent speaking Arabic, and nearly 10 percent speaking French. And the most common native languages of ELs in Montana include German, Spanish, North American Indian and Russian.

Districts throughout the U.S. have historically struggled to improve educational outcomes among English learners who, by definition, are net yet proficient in listening, speaking, reading or writing in English.

In Texas, where Ensemble Learning will focus some of its grant resources, a statewide survey of more than 11,000 teachers, parents, school administrators, students and other community stakeholders found that 43 percent said schools were doing a poor or fair job of meeting the needs of English learners.

In a study released this past summer, researchers from New York University and Oregon State found that when schools did succeed in helping students become English proficient, children made significant academic gains. Bilingual children–those who had been classified as English learners but deemed proficient in both English and their native language–saw reading and math scores increase at rates even father than their peers who spoke only English.

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