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March’s Brown vs. Board Challenge: Supporting English Language Learners

<< #OurChallengeOurHope Homepage

Skyline High School in Oakland, California. (photo by Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for the Alliance for Excellent Education)

When the Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Brown vs. Board of Education sixty-five years ago, most likely the justices did not realize how the demographics of our nation’s schools would evolve. While their historic decision was focused on helping children of color, it now extends hope to more than 5 million students who are English language learners (ELLs). Children from around the world now attend U.S. schools and many enter their new schools with limited English language exposure. As educators work to meet the needs of this increasingly diverse student population, appropriate support and resources to ensure that all students receive the high-quality education needed to succeed beyond their classrooms is critical.

Some districts support ELLs through direct language instruction, while others incorporate language instruction across subjects. The whole school approach allows ELL students to receive language support within the context of their subject-based instruction. This proven research-based approach provides higher-quality access to English language instruction for nonnative English speakers.

In March, the Alliance for Excellent Education’s #OurChallengeOurHope campaign will explore the benefits of using the whole school approach to support ELLs. Highlights of this important initiative will detail how district leaders and teachers can collaborate to ensure all students thrive, regardless of their race, zip code, ethnic background, or English language skills.

Upcoming Events

Webinar: A Whole-School Approach for Supporting English Language Learners

March 24, 2020, 2 pm EDT
Dr. Margarita Calderón, PhD, professor emerita at Johns Hopkins University, and teachers from Loudoun County Schools in Virginia will share how they collaborate with content-area teachers to ensure ELL students are supported across the curriculum. They also will explain how they leverage the latest research and coaching techniques to support teachers as well as student learning.

#OurChallengeOurHope Slow Twitter Chat

March 31, 2020, 12 pm EDT to 8 pm EDTThe #OurChallengeOurHope slow Twitter chat will explore resources that support holistic instructional techniques for supporting ELL students.


A Whole-School Approach to English Learners

Improving students’ English-language skills isn’t just the job of ELL specialists. ELLs typically spend a mere thirty or so minutes a day with English Language Acquisition (ELA) teachers.  Thus, the majority of their time is with general education and mainstream content teachers. These teachers may or may not have the expertise to help students acquire advanced language skills as they learn new content. With the research-based whole school approach, mainstream teachers work closely with ELA instructors within their specific content areas to share instruction more effectively

Colorín Colorado

Colorín Colorado is the premier national website serving educators and families of ELL students in grades preK–12. Colorín Colorado has provided free research-based information, activities, and advice to parents, schools, and communities around the country for more than a decade.

Highest Aspirations 

In this podcast series, experts engage in important conversations about the most rapidly growing student demographic in the United States—ELL students. They speak with educators, students, researchers, policymakers, parents, and community members about how to help all students reach their highest aspirations.

Additional Resources

Why UDL Matters for English Language Learners (Language Magazine)

6 Essential Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners (Edutopia)

Taking the Holistic Approach! (Language Magazine

Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.