Why Does Our District Need an ELL Policy?
Misunderstandings may arise at local levels regarding the need for an Equal Access Plan. Some common scenarios and appropriate responses are presented below:
Scenario 1: We don't have any English language learners right now. If we ever do, we'll deal with it at that time.
Response: Waiting until an ELL student arrives at school suggests that services will not be available upon entry at school. A policy approved by a local school board will take time to craft so that steps for implementing a sound program can occur when needed. A newly-arrived student could be waiting for several weeks under that scenario. A consequence of that approach is inaccessibility to appropriate instruction—a violation of most legal provisions.
Scenario 2: We don't have a policy for English-dominant students. Why discriminate and have one for English language learners?
Response: English dominant students need not worry about acquiring English and comprehensible academic content in an English-dominant school environment. The non-dominant English students come to school without those advantages. As a result, they have a need and a right to instruction that addresses their need for comprehensible instruction that will lead them to acquisition of English and to academic knowledge and skills enjoyed by their English-dominant peers. Furthermore, the courts have ruled that denying them that support is a violation of their rights against discrimination on the basis of national origin. The texts for several of those court decisions are accessible on this site. In short, schools are bound by legal provisions.
Scenario 3: Once you have a policy in place, you lose your flexibility to implement a program that works for students with varying needs. Policy stifles creativity.
Response: A policy reflects a school district's intent to comply with the spirit and provisions of law. It also assures that, because it is policy, no teacher or administrator may veto provisions of that policy.
It is possible for provisions in policy to become dated or ineffective. Sometimes improved approaches to instruction merit piloting or implementation. Under these circumstances, schools are advised to revise their policy, consistent with the provisions of statute, and to seek school board approval for the newly revised policy or additions to policy. Creativity and excellence are never compromised by policy.