Raise the Bar: Pathways to Multilingualism

Raise the Bar: Pathways to Multilingualism

Goal: Provide every student with a pathway to multilingualism.

The Problem

The number of people in the United States who speak a language other than English at home nearly tripled over the last three decades. ​And as of 2019, there were 5.1 million English learners enrolled in our nation's public elementary and secondary schools, comprising 10 percent of the student population. English learners are one of the fastest-growing student populations. As a nation, we must do all we can to support students learning English. And as our nation continues to grow more diverse, and as our global economy becomes more interconnected, we also must provide opportunities for all students to be multilingual.

Our Strategies

Support English Learners:

  • Through $890 million in Title III grants to states; Washington, D.C.; and Puerto Rico, the Department will help to improve the education of English learners and immigrant youth.
  • Additionally, the Department will continue its robust oversight of the obligations that schools have to serve English learners under Title VI. The law requires that schools, districts, and state educational agencies take affirmative steps to address language barriers so that English learners may participate meaningfully in their schools' educational programs.

Increase Access to Bilingual Education:

  • The Department of Education is continuing to provide technical assistance and oversight to promote research-based bilingual educational opportunities and language instruction in early childhood education settings and beyond.
  • Additionally, the Department is highlighting districts and states that are implementing innovative approaches to serving multilingual students and elevating evidence-based programs, including seals of biliteracy at the state level.   

Prepare a Multilingual Workforce to Succeed in a Global Economy:

  • Through the use of the bully pulpit and through federal resources via competitive grant programs, the Department will elevate the need to support a diverse and multilingual educator workforce, including through first-time funding for the August F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence grants, a new Native Language Resource Center, and graduate fellowships. The Department also will continue to support Grow-Your-Own programs to serve the increasing diversity of students and ensure students have the skills to meet the needs of a global economy and society.

Sampling of ARP Funding Highlights:

  • Through the American Rescue Plan (ARP), states and districts are engaged in important work to expand pathways to multilingual education and to support English learners. For example:
    • Indiana's Teacher of English Language Learners (I-TELL) program is paying for tuition and fees for current educators to earn the additional licensure they need to become teachers of record for students who are learning English. This program is a partnership between the Indiana Department of Education and the University of Indianapolis' Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning.
    • The Red Hawks Rising Teacher Training Academy is a partnership among Montclair State University, the Newark Board of Education, and the American Federation of Teachers. The program prepares students of color to become teachers who reflect the diversity of the Newark community.
    • Collier County Public Schools in Florida has launched specific strategies to bridge the digital divide for migrant students based on feedback from migrant students and families and community partners. Schools within the district also are home to Migrant Resource Centers where students and families can go to receive targeted supports, services, and mentoring.
    • California's West Contra Costa Unified School District is using surveys to keep track of English learners' overall well-being and is providing their families with translated communications on available services, including school counseling.
    • The Illinois State Board of Education has created a $4 million grant from federal coronavirus relief funds that will help to increase the number of bilingual educators in the state, amid growing calls to fill teacher vacancies.

Grants and Resources:

  • To capture the ways in which the Department is working to provide every student with opportunities for multilingual learning, the agency released a one-pager with links to federal resources and grants.
  • For the first time ever, the Department awarded funding for the Augustus F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence program. Through this program, $18 million in federal funds will be put to use to support colleges and universities in prioritizing educator preparation programs that prepare multilingual teachers of color to become fully certified to teach multilingual learners, including in dual language programs.​
  • The Department's National Professional Development (NPD) grant program is supporting 44 colleges and universities to deliver professional learning for teachers of English learners, with a focus on school readiness and early childhood development.
  • The National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition (NCELA) has disseminated more than 25,000 resources to the field, including briefs, fact sheets, toolkits, podcasts, and other information to serve multilingual learners and highlight their needs.