The most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition in 2016 on English learners and high school graduation rates shows ELs with a graduation rate of 62.6% compared with 82.3% for students overall—an approximate 20% difference. This serves as a sobering reminder to all of us in the field of the need for ongoing advocacy for equitable education for ELs. The bright spot in this picture is the upward trend for all groups over four school years, with an increase of 3.3%. And for ELs, the increase is 5.6%. At this rate, we could reach the current overall graduation rate of 82.3% by…2025.
What can we as educators do to be sure our ELs graduate?
One of the keys to success for ELs, especially those in the upper grades, is having a supportive guidance counselor, preferably one who speaks their home language, Diane Staehr Fenner writes in Advocating English Learners: A Guide for Educators. We don’t often have the opportunity to select the guidance counselors, but we can develop relationships with them and build upon their understanding of ELs in general and our students’ strengths and needs in particular. We can also advocate for strategic scheduling including placement in courses at a challenging academic level taught by teachers who are experienced in scaffolding with language supports. For students who transition from elementary to middle school or from middle to high school, this can be a difficult period of adjustment. We can smooth this transition by meeting with the students’ new or former teachers to discuss the students’ academic and personal strengths, areas of need, home language and background and other vital details.
There are many areas in which ELs need advocates along the path to graduation. If you are interested in making a difference for ELs in your school—whether you want to address the graduation gap or another issue–please join a supportive community of professionals starting in January as we hone our advocacy skills through our online course, “Effectively Advocating for English Learners.”
Learn more about our course and sign up here.