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A 'Bill of Rights' for English-Language Learners


The California Association for Bilingual Education and Pearson have created a "Bill of Rights" for English-language learners that stresses the need for teachers who work with them to have specialized training. It also emphasizes the benefits of teaching ELLs in such a way that enables them to maintain their native language while they are learning English.

Many states are lacking policies that support these "rights." For example, only Arizona, Florida, and New York require all prospective teachers to have training in how to work with ELLs, according to Quality Counts 2009. Only 11 states have incentives for teachers to receive an English-as-a-second-language endorsement or a bilingual endorsement.

A number of states have policies that make it difficult for educators to support students in maintaining their native languages. For example, seven states—Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin—either ban or restrict the use of native-language instruction with ELLs, according to Quality Counts 2009.

I wonder if coming up with a "Bill of Rights" for English-language learners that all states could agree on is about as difficult as coming up with a set of national standards for all students that all states would endorse.


This is a topic that I recently presented on at NABE (the National Association of Bilingual Education), and to me, the biggest issue is that many 'rights' that we ascribe to ELLs can be divided into those that are supported by current legislation and those that are not. There are groups of people in general education who will never accept the latter group and accept the former group begrudgingly. Our job as educators is to tap research and 'good teaching' to show that accepting these 'rights' results in higher academic achievement for these students in the general education classroom. We have to make it relevant to them (gen ed teachers) and their lives.

The Bill of Rights seems to stress how we can support our English Learners in the general classroom. The majority of English learners in this country do not have the benefit of support in their primary language so making adaptations to the core English curriculum is of vital importance for their educational success. Kudos to CABE and Pearson for putting this together.

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