There’s no question that the COVID-19 pandemic impacted learning in ways educators and policymakers are still working to understand. But while all students felt the impact, certain historically underserved student groups–including English language learners (ELLs)–were disproportionately affected.
During virtual learning, ELLs didn’t have access to many of the in-school resources they typically use and need to learn best. Many student groups suffered from limited or no access to reliable high-speed internet, appropriate technology devices to use for virtual and hybrid learning, and unpredictable family situations that arose as a result of the pandemic.
While educators focus on addressing pandemic-related learning loss and closing existing learning gaps that grew wider during the pandemic, focusing on ELLs is critical.
Here, Russ Davis, CEO and founder of SchoolStatus, offers some recommendations for supporting ELLs:
1. Creating and maintaining consistent and effective parent-teacher communication. Parent-teacher relationships have always been a vital part of student success, but the importance of establishing and maintaining meaningful two-way communication with students’ support systems at home was emphasized by the pandemic. When schools moved to remote instruction, communication between parents and educators soared. Now, schools have an opportunity to build on this uptick in parent engagement and establish long-term processes that increase meaningful, two-way communication with students’ families.
2. Implementing a 1:1 device program for students. Our world has fully embraced the digital transformation the pandemic sought onto us. It’s time our schools also join in on this and identify resources to create a 1:1 device program for students. This type of program has been shown to have many benefits in student learning and success as it allows students to gain control over how they learn and explain their knowledge. Also, students can use their devices across classes and from home or at school, which creates more consistency in their learning.
3. Providing ELLs with accommodations that will allow them to succeed. ELLs can benefit from edtech tools that are designed with their needs in mind. Edtech tools can provide support for students who are at all levels of acquiring the English language, from those being introduced to English for the first time to those who are proficient in conversational English, but require additional support because of the complexity of the language. For instance, tools that help with vocabulary attainment, reading and working with text, collecting and organizing information, and drafting and editing writing can be extremely beneficial.
4. Using data to set goals and target interventions where ELLs need them most. Access to dynamic student data is critical to identifying students who may need support. When teachers have a holistic picture of each student – including academic, behavioral, attendance, disciplinary data – they can better target appropriate resources and interventions. Additionally, multi-faceted and timeline student data also enables educators and parents to have informed conversations about students’ learning paths.
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