The English Language Learner (ELL) KnowledgeBase for Teachers is an online resource supporting educators responsible for implementing programs for ELL students. It offers resources related to teaching ELL students based on Office for Civil Rights and the No Child Left Behind Act requirements.
This KnowledgeBase is currently being updated to reflect recent changes under federal law. The current version is provided for your reference as much of the information may still be relevant.
Guideline: School personnel must become familiar with the federal and state laws and precedent-setting court cases related to English language learners (ELLs) to understand the requirements for serving ELL students. Reviewing the provided resource documents will give such an understanding.
The federal definition of limited English proficient (LEP) under the No Child Left Behind Act
This resource provides links to the U.S. Department of Education website with updated guidance to assist public elementary and secondary schools to ensure enrollment processes are consistent with federal law and fulfill their obligation to provide all children with equal access to an education.
There are several federal court cases that establish the legal foundation for providing equal educational opportunity to students with limited English proficiency, Brown v. Board of Education, Lau v. Nichols, Castaneda v. Pickard, and Plyler v. Doe. A summary of each decision is offered.
Brown v. Board of Education
Lau v. Nichols
Castañeda v. Pickard
Plyler v. Doe
The legal foundation for providing equal educational opportunity to students with limited English proficiency is found in three federal laws: Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Educational Opportunity Act of 1974, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. A summary of each Act is provided.
School Climate and Discipline
This link to the U.S. Department of Education website provides resources addressing school climate and discipline. As noted on the website, "The guidance package is a resource resulting from a collaborative project—the Supportive School Discipline Initiative (SSDI)—between ED and DOJ. The SSDI, launched in 2011, addresses the school-to-prison pipeline and the disciplinary policies and practices that can push students out of school and into the justice system. The initiative aims to support instead school discipline practices that foster safe, inclusive and positive learning environments while keeping students in school."
The Department of Education news releases explains that the resource package consists of four components:
"the Dear Colleague guidance letter on civil rights and discipline, prepared in conjunction with DOJ, describes how schools can meet their legal obligations under federal law to administer student discipline without discriminating against students on the basis of race, color or national origin;
the Guiding Principles document draws from emerging research and best practices to describe three key principles and related action steps that can help guide state and local efforts to improve school climate and school discipline;
the Directory of Federal School Climate and Discipline Resources indexes the extensive federal technical assistance and other resources related to school discipline and climate available to schools and districts; and
the Compendium of School Discipline Laws and Regulations, an online catalogue of the laws and regulations related to school discipline in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, compares laws across states and jurisdictions."
Purpose: Districts are required to take affirmative steps to address the language development of English language learners (ELLs) where the inability to speak and understand the English language prevents the students from effective participation in the district's regular education program. Element 1 addresses the legal requirements related to ELL students. Besides school leaders and staff members, these requirements must be understood by the entire school community.
Purpose: School districts have broad discretion in selecting appropriate language programs, but they should consider three general questions when making a decision.
The program chosen should be considered sound by experts in the field. If a district is using a different approach, it must show it is considered a legitimate experimental strategy.
Purpose: School districts have multiple obligations under Title III of the No Child Left Behind Act and Office of Civil Rights (OCR) requirements. Under Title III, schools receiving such funds are to ensure timely and effective notification to parents of ELL students and extend a means for them to be involved with their child's education. The OCR requirements specify districts do so in a way that ensures meaningful access to ELL students and their parents. Accordingly, schools must develop effective methods of involving parents of ELL students in their child's education. In fulfilling these responsibilities, districts should develop procedures for providing the parents of ELL students with the same information provided to the parents of their non-ELL peers in a language-appropriate manner.
Purpose: A district should have procedures in place for identifying English language learner (ELL) students and assessing their English proficiency. Such procedures should involve parents in making the final determination of whether their child is placed in the district's ELL program. Parents deciding not to have their child or children participate must sign a participation waiver.
Purpose: As noted at the National Clearinghouse for English Language Aquisition (NCELA), "School districts are to provide alternative language instruction programs to children with limited English proficiency to help them develop their English language skills and meet the same state academic content and student achievement standards all students are expected to meet.
In doing so, school districts have broad discretion in selecting appropriate language programs, but should consider the following when developing their program.
Purpose: A district should establish criteria to determine when English language learner (ELL) students qualify for exiting from the program. The exit criteria should be based on objective standards that ensure ELL students will be able to participate meaningfully and successfully in the district's regular education program.
Purpose: In fulfilling the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act and the Office for Civil Rights, staff development must occur to ensure ELL students progress academically and be afforded equal educational opportunity. This includes professional learning in the following areas: