How do English Language Learners Perform in Charter Schools?


Charter schools are known throughout the U.S. for endeavoring to provide students with resources to better channel their energies into their studies by experimenting with new or modified methodologies. Depending on the charter network you visit, you might see strategies focused on increased parental involvement, modified school days, smaller class sizes, and/or a greater level of attention for those who need more assistance, such as special education students and English Language Learners (ELLs).

Across the country, ELLs tend to perform more poorly than their English-speaking peers due solely to the fact that they attend classes taught in a language they don't know as well as their native language. These students deserve the same opportunities as their English-speaking counterparts. Additionally, ESSA mandates that these students be as integrated as possible into schools.

So how do ELLs perform in charter schools compared to traditional public schools? A recent study by the Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO) found that ELLs in charter schools tend to perform better than their counterparts in traditional public schools.

English Language Learners in the U.S.

As recently as the 2014-2015 school year, roughly nine percent of all students in the U.S. are ELLs. In certain parts of the country, the ELL population is even more dense. For example, in Texas, one in every six students is an ELL. That equates to nearly five million students across the country who are not native English speakers. These students will eventually have the option to test out of certain ELL programs, but until that day comes, it remains incumbent on schools to provide them with the best education possible.

How ELLs perform in traditional public schools

In a traditional public school setting, ELLs do not perform as well as their English-speaking counterparts. In fact, only 63 percent of ELLs graduated from high school, compared to 86 percent of their English-speaking peers in 2013. Even though schools are required to assess the abilities of these students on a yearly basis, many of them fail to attain English proficiency and remain in ELL programs until graduation.

What charter schools are doing differently

Charter schools, however, are doing things a little differently when it comes to educating ELLs. For one, even though charter schools have fewer days of school on average, ELLs have more opportunities to study subjects that help them progress in language arts, such as reading and English. In fact, some ELLs in Texas saw an average of 50 additional days of reading education and 22 additional days of math education. In short, charter schools are simply giving ELLs more opportunity to learn than their traditional public school counterparts.

How traditional public schools can follow suit

Helping students make the most of their time and education is partially up to educators themselves, though they share this responsibility with the parents of ELLs. That’s why parent involvement is so critical to the success of students, ELLs and native English speakers alike. Maintaining a solid parent communication strategy complete with providing parent notices in many priority languages can help achieve this goal, allowing students a greater chance to succeed, regardless of background.

For more information on how ELLs perform in charter schools, and how your school can improve parent communication, request a quote or download our ebook, ESSA and Charter Schools: an Introduction.

Alyssa Thornley

About The Author

Alyssa Thornley has spent her career working to support schools and communities in providing opportunity to all students. In positions as a teacher, professional development coordinator, and as a volunteer, she has focused on the community’s role in education, and in designing efficient programs that work for diverse needs. Alyssa leads TransACT’s customer engagement and market strategy efforts, and works to ensure innovative programs, guidance, and thought leadership from across the country’s districts are being shared and spread.