Statement from the Working Group on ELL Policy Re: Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015

The Working Group on ELL Policy consists of experts who research effective educational policy and strategies for ELL students. The Working Group advocates four guiding principles for the inclusion of ELLs in federal legislation that affect state and local agencies:

  • Fostering academic achievement and language development
  • Providing additional supports
  • Establishing meaningful accountability
  • Valuing bilingualism and biliteracy

With the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), this brief highlights key features of the new law for ELL educators. In general, ESSA makes some advances in the first three principles with respect to Title I, Title II, Title III, and Title VIII. However, ESSA is silent on the fourth issue of bilingualism and biliteracy. 

Content Comments 

This policy brief is a necessary read for state and local educators who work with ELL students. The four principles, in and of itself, are worthwhile guidelines for any state and district ELL program or policy to follow. The authors' analysis of layering the four guidelines with the ESSA is especially useful in examining how the new law includes ELL students in state and local accountability and assessment systems and standards. Based on their analysis, the authors agree that ESSA advances the inclusion of ELLs; however, the law also misses opportunities "to set expectations for states to establish systems of school and district support that promote improved achievement of ELs" (p. 4). It is interesting to note that these missed opportunities include formative assessment elements like establishing learning goals, aligning instructional resources to the goals, and assisting teachers and students in attaining those learning goals.