In educational institutions of the country, the big group of students who, for various reasons, do not know English at a rather advanced level is presented. Classification as English language learners divides students on those who speak English well and those who do not. It is created with the purpose of providing the individual needs of such students in the course of training. Despite all their abilities and talents, a low level of language knowledge negatively affects the quality of education.
Classification of students on learning English and proficient in it happens on the basis of certain estimates and criteria. According to the National Research Council (2011), each staff developed its own system of assessment. However, most often passing the special test, teachers’ assessment, checking academic achievements, and other factors is its cornerstone. The first step in the classification is the Home Language Survey, which is provided to parents after registering a child at school. It defines two types of students – English-only or English learners. According to Olvera (2015), if after six years spent in school, the level of language proficiency is still not high enough, the student becomes a long-term English learner. The author draws attention to the fact that this assessment and teachers’ attitudes towards the student are related. Thus, the students’ quality of education can deteriorate, and legislation still needs to be developed to protect the ELL.
English learners face more challenges and obstacles than those who speak the language at a high level. Their training goes beyond a simple school curriculum and access to common knowledge. The ELLs require protection and guarantees of fair education, and many laws are affecting the quality of their learning. For example, one of the earliest cases governing the security of the rights of the ELLs is Lau v. Nichols (1974). The case addressed the problem of discrimination and stated that students should receive the linguistic support they needed. Thanks to it, the survey mentioned earlier for the classification of students appeared.
However, incidents that can change the situation and call into question all existing laws continue to occur. For example, the Horne v. Flores case (2009), which, since 1992, considered the financing of ELLs, had been delayed for a long time. It has also set a unique precedent whereby more flexible standards can be applied to address the shortcomings in student protection. Moreover, the case demonstrated the federal system’s failure to protect the rights of the ELLs.
Nevertheless, the more recent case – Issa v. School District of Lancaster (2017) showed that students can still receive help with protecting their rights. The ELLs have achieved that new pupils, already quite adults (17-20 years old), can yet be educated in a regular school with the support of state programs. An important factor here was that students of this age were sent to an alternative school Phoenix for teenagers, where there was no opportunity for decent learning.
Thus, personal development is unthinkable without education, as is the development of society itself, without allowing every citizen to study. There are several groups of people who may need protection and support more than others. The legal aspects of the problems of protecting students-English language learners need some rethinking. The provisions of national legislation governing these children’s legal situation are fragile and may not address specific issues.
Horne v. Flores, 129 S. Ct. 2579 (2009)
Issa v. School Dist. Of Lancaster, 847 F. 3d 121 – Court of Appeals, 3rd Circuit (2017)
Lau v. Nichols, 414 U.S. 563 (1974)
National Research Council. (2011). Allocating federal funds for state programs for English language learners. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
Olvera C. (2015). Teacher perceptions of English learners acquisition of academic English: Impacts on long term English learner classification. Educational Policy, special issue, 78-92.