Bennet Introduces Bill to Improve Outcomes for English Language Learners

Promotes Innovative Approaches to Learning English, Engages Parents and Families

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet introduced a bill to help schools teach the growing number of kids for which English is not their native language. The English Learning and Innovation Act would help ensure that English language learners have access to high-quality instruction that enables them to acquire English and prepare for college, career, and beyond.

English learners are the fastest growing student population within the United States, having grown by 60 percent since the late 1990s, even as the total student population has remained unchanged. The fastest growth has taken place in regions of the country with relatively limited experience serving English learners, creating a major challenge for schools struggling to close the achievement gap with limited resources.

“With growing populations of English learners in Colorado and across the country, our ability to educate all students becomes increasingly important,” Bennet said. “This bill will help school districts develop successful teaching methods to close the achievement gap and prepare all students for success.”

The bill creates two competitive grant programs to promote new solutions.

Innovation Grants will provide schools the resources to test innovative approaches and develop effective education programs to foster English learner achievement. Capacity Building Grants are intended to assist states that have experienced a significant increase in the number of English learners and which do not have a history of working with these students. The bill instructs the Department of Education to prioritize innovative programs that have demonstrated positive results and engage the parents and families of English learners.

About English learners:

  • There are about 4.7 million English learners in schools across the country as of the 2007-08 school year, accounting for about 10 percent of the country’s K-12 population.
  • As of 2011, 76% of elementary school English learners and 56% of secondary school English learners are citizens, and more than half of English learners in public secondary schools are second- or third-generation citizens.
  • English learners will likely constitute up to 25 percent of the total U.S. public school population by 2025.
  • English learners face a daunting achievement gap compared with their native English speaking classmates. On the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP).
  • In 2011, only 6 in 100 4th Grade English learners read at or above proficiency compared with 36 out of 100 non-EL students
  • In 2011, 12 out of 100 4th Grade English learners scored at or above proficiency in mathematics compared with 41 out of 100 non-EL students
  • In reading assessments, 74 out of 100 English learners scored below the basic level compared to 22 out 100 non-EL students in 2009
  • In 2011, 72 out of 100 eighth grade English learners scored below the basic level in mathematics compared to 26 out of 100 non-EL students.

English learners in Colorado:

  • Between academic years 1994-95 through 2004-05, the number of English learners grew by 237.7 percent.
  • The largest growth in our state was in the early 2000s.
  • In 2010-11, the state had an enrollment of 117,369 English learners. This represents an increase of over 6,700 from 2009-10.
  • 163 languages are spoken by students in Colorado schools. Spanish is the top language spoken by English learners in Colorado, with 86.7 percent. The second most commonly language spoken is Vietnamese, which is followed by Arabic, Chinese and Russian.