The Florida Consent Decree aims to protect the English Language Learners (ELL)’s civil rights and provide them an equal opportunity for accessing an education. This is done by ensuring the proper delivery of an inclusive instruction to which these students are entitled. Moreover, the Decree upholds many federal and state laws which ensure education standards and protect against discrimination (Florida Department of Education, 2020). Under this declaration, learners with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) get a chance to improve their mastery of the language and their education as a whole. According to the Florida Department of Education (2020), the Decree also guides on the procedure for LEP individuals’ placement to the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program. It also outlines the exit criteria and monitoring this category of people.
The Florida Consent Decree suggests proper initial assessment and identification of learners with limited English proficiency to ensure appropriate services provision. In schools, the initial identification process for this group of students involves determining those individuals who fit the category of LEP. One of the key characteristics is individuals whose native language is not English. In addition, those who use a language other than English at home or born not in the United States are also regarded as Limited English Proficiency persons. Besides, those learners from regions in which other languages have significantly impacted English, such as Alaskan natives or American Indians, were also included. Moreover, any person who appears to be frequently using a language other than English or having considerable difficulty in writing, reading, or listening to the English language (Florida Department of Education, 2020). The major survey questions asked for this assessment and identification are based on these elements.
If a student or their parent responds positively to these questions, they will be tested and assessed for English speaking, listening, and comprehension. This initial identification process, usually completed within four weeks, helps to determine whether these learners can be categorized as LEP or not (Florida Department of Education, 2020). Before placing a child in this program, their grades, interviews, and written recommendations from current or past staff members are considered.
As mandated in the Consent Decree, there are a number of implications for K-12 teachers. First, they need extra training of 120 hours to ensure they obtain the required training through the district in-service training, which gives them 60 in-service points (Florida Department of Education, 2020). The areas for personnel delivering ESOL for certification include cross-cultural communication, applied linguistics, teaching methods, curriculum and materials, and evaluation. The training consists of 300 hours of studying these modules, usually infused into the in-service training plan (Florida Department of Education, 2020). These implications are for school teachers, counselors, psychologists, and school administrators, who are expected to undertake another 60 hours/points of in-service training on ESOL.
As for the new ones, those hired after September 9, 2003, are expected to enroll in a university coursework program that involves 120 hours of ESOL training, followed by an exam (Florida Department of Education, 2020). The modifications to the Consent Decree also impacted the implementation guidelines. There were different training hours for teachers already in schools and the new ones. The former is required to obtain an extra 120 hours of district in-service training in ESOL courses for certification (Florida Department of Education, 2020). A part of the modification also allowed the LEP students to give their recommendations to the Department of Education regarding the ESOL Subject Area Test, including the competencies and skills to be tested and item specifications.
Florida Department of Education. (2020). English language learners.