“This report is presented as a
wake-up call to California
educators and policymakers
to acknowledge the large
number of English Learner
students amassing in
California secondary schools
who, despite many years in
our schools and despite being
close to the age in which they
should be able to graduate,
are still not English proficient
and have indeed incurred
major academic deficits”
What is the definition of a
Long Term English Learner?
A Long Term English Learner (LTEL) is a student
who has been enrolled in U.S. schools for more
than six years, still requires language services and
is struggling academically.
Who are LTELs?
They are often orally bilingual but have limited literacy skills in their native language
and limited academic literacy skills in English.
They generally fall into two main groups, transnationals who have moved back and
forth between countries, and students with inconsistent schooling in the U.S.
Have often not resided in the United States continuously, despite the fact that they may
have been born in this country. So the U.S.-born label can be misleading.
They struggle in content areas and are at high risk for dropping out and have different
needs from newly arrived ELs.
Literacy skills that students learn in their native languages transfer to English, but longterm ELs rarely have had the opportunity to hone their native language skills.
Experience inconsistent schooling because of frequent moves or incoherent language
programming within and across the schools they have attended. Thus, many have
significant gaps in their schooling.
How Many Language
Learners are Long
Despite the reality that
large numbers of such
students currently attend
U.S. schools, there has
been practically no
research conducted about
them to date, nor do
programs exist to meet
their needs in these
Most LTELs’ schooling history is weak or had
limited language support
75% of ELs spent 2+ years with no services or in mainstream
classes with no support
Only 5% receive primary language programs or instruction
Increase in mainstream placement with no ELD program
Just over ½ are in Structured English immersion,
Factors that contribute to an EL
becoming long term...
periods of time in which ELs received no language development support;
elementary school curricula not designed for English Learners;
enrollment in weak program models and poorly implemented English Learner programs;
limited access to the full curriculum;
a history of inconsistent placements;
placement into interventions designed for native English speakers and treatment like
struggling readers rather than addressing ELD needs;
social and linguistic isolation;
Characteristics of Long Term
By the time LTELs arrive in secondary schools, they have significant gaps in
They have very weak academic language and significant deficits in reading
and writing skills.
The majority of LTELs are “stuck” at Intermediate levels of English proficiency
or below. At Achieve, only about 5% of students are exited from services each
Many have developed habits of non-engagement, passivity and invisibility in
Most LTELs want to go to college, and are unaware that their academic
program is not preparing them for that goal.
Some common misconceptions
“The sooner and more fully immersed in English, the better. Time spent in the home language takes away
from learning English”.
Research consensus is that continued development of the home language in school, along with English, benefits
English proficiency and overall language and literacy and long term academic success.
“Just good teaching works for all students. English Learners don’t need special curriculum, services or
Research confirms that English Learners need instruction and materials to be adapted and supplemented to
address the language barrier. Oral language development is particularly important for English Learners.
“English is more important than other subjects. If they aren’t doing well in English, devote more time to
English language arts. Science, social studies and art can wait.”
And yet, academic language is best learned in the context of learning academic content. Language development
needs to occur throughout the full curriculum in order to foster academic language and prevent academic gaps.
Recommendations for Programming
English Language Development along with a grade level core ELA
Clustered placement in heterogeneous core classes
Focus on academic language in content courses
(SDAIE/SIOP Strategies) with instructional rigor
Native speaker classes for native language literacy support
Focus on study skills and time management
Essential components of instruction for
• A focus on oral language development
• A focus on academic language and vocabulary
• Consistent routines
• A focus on expository and informational text
• Student goal setting
• A focus on student engagement and participation
• Grade level rigor with language support
• Building community and relationships for support
• A focus on explicitly taught study skills
- Olsen, 2012
less than 90
seconds per day
Questions to find out…
Which of our students are LTELs and are we using
differentiated teaching strategies to support their access to
• Are we analyzing the language demands of the content
being taught and identifying precise language objectives?
• Are students actively engaging with and practicing
academic vocabulary? (listening, speaking, reading and
• If possible track student engagement and active
• What supports are we providing for students at each