State English learner education policy: A conceptual framework to guide comprehensive policy action




English learners, state education policy, policy framework


Given the role of the state as the primary governing level tasked with U.S. public education, combined with the rapid rise in the proportion of students who are identified as English learners (ELs), this manuscript puts forth a framework for state EL education policy. The framework is organized around three core principles of understanding students, providing high quality instruction, and supporting effective systems. Drawing on recent decades of policy research, the framework identifies nine key areas for comprehensive state policy action: (1) addressing diversity in EL skills and needs, (2) EL assessment, (3) classification and reclassification, (4) core content access, (5) English language development instruction, (6) bilingual education, (7) EL funding, (8) teacher preparation and skills, and (9) pre-K through postsecondary alignment. Along with synthesizing policy research in each of the nine areas, we present relevant policy implications. We outline how this framework can be used – and adapted – by policymakers and scholars to examine state EL education policy contexts and to guide future research and policymaking.


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Author Biographies

Ilana M. Umansky, University of Oregon

Ilana Umansky is an Assistant Professor of Educational Methodology, Policy and Leadership at the University of Oregon. Her work explores how education policy impacts the educational opportunities and outcomes of immigrant, multilingual and English learner-classified students using largescale data and longitudinal and quasi-experimental methods. She holds a PhD from Stanford University in Sociology of Education and often works in researcher-practitioner partnerships with states and districts to advance equitable school systems for immigrant and multilingual students.  

Lorna Porter, University of Oregon

Lorna Porter is a doctoral student at the University of Oregon, where she is pursuing a degree in Quantitative Research Methods in Education. Her work explores how education policy decisions impact the experiences and outcomes of immigrant and multilingual students.




How to Cite

Umansky, I. M., & Porter, L. (2020). State English learner education policy: A conceptual framework to guide comprehensive policy action. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 28, 17.