The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel participated in a National Roundtable on English Language Learners at the U.S. Department of Education this week, where he discussed the needs of students whose primary language is not English.
Gentzel emphasized the need for the federal government to focus on providing technical assistance and disseminating best practices rather than imposing new mandates on school districts.
“Changing demographics are affecting school districts of all sizes in every part of the country,” Gentzel said after the discussion, which included representatives of nearly a dozen national and statewide organizations, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and several other officials from the Department of Education.
The U.S. student population is growing in diversity, and about 10 percent of students are ELLs, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). In schools in southern and western states, more than half of students in prekindergarten through 12th grade were minorities, according to 2011 data from NCES. And that same year, the U.S. Census reported that, for the first time, the majority of children under one year old in the United States were minorities, which will further impact diversity in public schools.
To continue to meet the needs of these students, local school districts will require greater collaborative support from other federal, state and local state agencies to ensure these students and their families have the appropriate support to succeed.