English Language Learners: Becoming Fluent in Afterschool
By CHRIS D'AGOSTINO Posted: Jun 10, 2011
English Language Learners (ELLs) are made up of a diverse group of individuals from across the world who are learning English for the first time. They also make up the fastest growing segment of the student population in United States public schools. With more and more ELLs entering U.S. public schools, there should be an increased focus on getting these students prepared to learn along with their English speaking peers; however, many schools are struggling to find the time and resources needed to aid ELLs, and therefore, English Language Learners have lagged behind their English-speaking peers in academic achievement. Here, quality afterschool programs, with less rigid structures, provide an environment where ELLs can hone their English speaking skills so that they can become English proficient and succeed in school. While some afterschool programs are offering these supports and seeing great results among their ELL populations, more programs with expertise in supporting ELLs are needed to keep up with the number of ELL students entering U.S. public schools.
A new issue brief by the Afterschool Alliance displays how the extra time and hands-on learning experiences provided by quality afterschool programs can allow for a specialized learning environment in which ELLs can develop language and social skills that otherwise could not be addressed through the less flexible schedule and resources of the regular school day. The brief entitled “English Language Learners: Becoming Fluent in Afterschool” provides insights into successful ELL-focused afterschool efforts currently in existence, offers policy recommendations to increase the capacity of afterschool programs serving ELLs and shows how other programs can address the issues facing ELLs in their communities. With school days that are increasingly focused on stringent curriculums and testing, many ELL students have much to gain from the less formal enrichment available outside of the school day. Afterschool programs, with lower student-staff ratios, flexible schedules and informal environments, are needed now more than ever to better target the individual of ELL students and provide a chance to practice communicating in their new language.