U.S. Departments of Education and Justice Release English Learner Tool Kit to Assist States and School Districts Comply with Their Legal Obligations

On September 21, 2015, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice (collectively, the “Departments”) released an English Learner Tool Kit—a resource to assist state and local educational agencies meet their legal obligations to English Learners (ELs) and ensure ELs have access to a quality public education.  The release of the EL Tool Kit comes at a time when over five million students (one-tenth of all students) in our nation’s public schools are ELs.

The EL Tool Kit, a companion to the Departments’ joint guidance English Learner Students and Limited English Proficient Parents[1] issued on January 7, 2015, consists of ten chapters containing resources and tools for state and local educational agencies to: (1) identify and assess all ELs in a timely manner; (2) provide ELs with an educationally sound and effective EL program; (3) provide the necessary personnel and resources to implement effectively the chosen EL program; (4) ensure meaningful access to ELs to all core curricular and extracurricular programs; (5) avoid the unnecessary segregation of ELs; (6) address the needs of ELs with disabilities; (7) meet the needs of ELs who opt-out of EL programs or particular EL services; (8) monitor and exit ELs from EL programs and services; (9) evaluate the effectiveness of the chosen EL program; and (10) ensure meaningful communication with Limited English Proficient parents.  Each of the ten chapters of the EL Tool Kit is aligned to each of the ten sections of joint guidance.

In their joint guidance issued earlier this year, the Departments reminded state and local educational agencies of their Title VI legal obligations as set forth in the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision Lau v. Nichols, 414 U.S. 563 (1974), to “take affirmative steps to ensure that students with limited English proficiency . . . can meaningfully participate in their educational programs and services.”  The Departments also reminded the educational agencies of their obligations under the Equal Educational Opportunities Act to “act to overcome language barriers that impede equal participation by students in their instructional programs.”

The EL Tool Kit is free and accessible to the public and can be downloaded here.  All state and local educational agencies must ensure they meet both their federal and state legal obligations to ELs with the goal of providing access for all students to a quality education.


[1] The Departments’ joint English Learner Guidance can be found at http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-el-201501.pdf.


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