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

Ilana M. Umansky, Lorna Porter


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.


English learners; state education policy; policy framework

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Copyright (c) 2020 Ilana Marice Umansky, Lorna Porter


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