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ESSA and ELLs: A public policy blog series

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The coming school year will be an exciting time for those of us who care about the policies and practices that support success for English Language Learners. With the Congressional passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act on December 10th, 2015, the action now shifts to the Education Department, which will be issuing guidance on the new rules this fall. Then, the work moves to the states, which will be required to develop accountability plans for ELLs that meet the requirements of the new ESSA legislation. A year from now, the familiar requirements of NCLB will be replaced with a wider variety of state-driven accountability measures, but it is anyone’s guess as to what the specifics will look like.

For an education blogger and policy nerd looking for a muse, there could hardly be a better subject than policymakers from 50 state DOEs approaching the central questions of equity, accountability, and instructional excellence for ELLs. The instructional approaches will vary, the politics will be complicated, and of course there will be lots of strongly held opinions and conflicting views--sounds like fun!

Over the coming months, this blog will put a spotlight on the myriad federal, state, and local responses to the ELL requirements set forth in ESSA. We will spend some time up front dissecting the legislation itself, but will quickly dive into the work that states are doing to shape their ESSA planning. And, we will get down to the district and school levels to understand how the decisions promulgated by state DOEs are influencing instruction. In this sense, we see this blog’s task as identifying areas of innovation and excellence, and amplifying those examples so that others can learn from them. During this transitional moment, we believe Ellevation has a unique role to play in helping policy makers and educators learn from each other. Serving over 500 school districts across the country, we’ve had the opportunity to hear first-hand from hard-working educators that are making an impact on ELL achievement. 

In the next post, we’ll hear from our friend Tim Boals, who is the founder and executive director of WIDA, a multi-state organization that develops proficiency standards for English Language Learners. He’ll provide a synopsis of the federal legislation as we currently understand it so that we can identify where the opportunities and risks lie in the new ESSA construct.

As we start this journey, we also want to hear from you and welcome your ideas and contributions. We are grateful to serve some of the most dedicated--and best--educators in the United States.