Education News

New Guidelines Aim To Give English Learners Equal Access To Education

While there are more English language learners in public schools, there are also more complaints involving their civil rights to education.

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Forty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that students who don’t know English have the same rights to education as other students.

Since then, the number of English language students in public schools has skyrocketed. Here in Texas, they count for nearly one in every five students.

But there are also growing concerns they aren’t getting full access to education.

Some highlights from federal data:

  • English language learners make up 5 percent of all students in public schools nationwide.
  • But they count for only two percent of students in Advanced Placement college-level courses.
  • What’s more, they make up 11 percent of students who are held back each year.

“So we know that those opportunity gaps are real and we know that the rate of complaints coming to us are real and that raises a real set of concerns for us that we wanted to speak to with this guidance,” said Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary at the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. She spoke with reporters on a conference call about her concerns.

Her office is investigating 60 cases involving civil rights issues for English learner students or their parents. One is with the Dallas Independent School District.

Now there’s new guidance from both the U.S. Education and Justice Departments, which puts together all the obligations that school districts have for English learners.

The guidance says schools need to:

  • identify English learner students in a timely and reliable manner
  • ensure they have equal access to school programs and activities
  • avoid unnecessary segregation of English learner students from other students
  • provide parents who speak limited English with information about school programs, services, and activities in a language they understand

The Texas Education Agency says they will review the guidance and, if needed, make any changes.

 

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