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ELL Instruction and Compliance: Note the And, not Or

While US Deputy Secretary of Education John King was meeting with undocumented students in San Francisco last week, members of our team were engaging with teachers and administrators who work most closely with these students in our public school systems in nearly every state across the country. In nearly all of these conversations we hear from ESL and Bilingual Program Directors who express that their work is both exhausting and gratifying, and that to be successful they need tools and solutions focused on BOTH compliance AND instruction.

Educators working with English Language Learners must adhere to an extensive set of policies and procedures that have been put in place so that students receive the attention they need and deserve. Concurrently, educators must be teachers of language and master the complex craft of ensuring students make progress toward English language proficiency and college- and career-ready standards. School districts and educators need to assess English learners, ensure they are being served in programs that are best suited for their needs, collaborate across content areas, enable specialists and coaches to augment instruction, and understand progress toward both content mastery and language proficiency. Compliance and instruction are intertwined.

Thankfully the Office of English Language Instruction at the US Department of Education released the English Learner Toolkit last January, a 10-part resource to help school and district administrators and teachers meet a wide range of instructional and compliance obligations. The Toolkit includes tools and resources for identifying English learners, putting in place a Language Acquisition Program, creating inclusive environments, assessing the effectiveness of programs, and much more.

At Ellevation we try to never confuse a great idea with its implementation. This means that the hardest work is invariably translating ideas into action and putting new policies, practices, programs and more in place. For us, this often means soliciting input and ideas from ELL leaders across the country, translating ideas into tools and products, and partnering with districts to put innovations into practice. Our work right now is very focused on Instructional Strategies and ensuring that educators using Ellevation can access easy-to-use activities and strategies that include advice on how to adapt each to match the proficiency levels of their students.

OELA should be applauded for understanding that educators are busy and often overwhelmed and thus have provided myriad samples and tools that correspond to nearly every obligation and policy described.

Given our work with hundreds of districts and thousands of educators across the country we wanted to make sure this valuable resource is widely distributed.