• Immigrant Connections

Student-Teacher Ratios for English Learners

Updated: Dec 17, 2020

There are many Facebook groups out there for those working with English Learners (ELs) and there are often posts about how to best advocate for ELs and what specifically to advocate for. A common topic of discussion is student-teacher ratios or “caseload” size. Of course, there are many factors affecting an EL teacher’s caseload, such as one’s program model (i.e. push-in, pull-out, co-teaching, etc.) and how spread out students are among schools, but nevertheless, it’s important to look at just how many students one EL teacher is ultimately responsible for.

And WOW do caseload sizes vary across the United States! While there are many EL teachers who have caseloads in the range of 50-75, there are way too many EL educators out there with caseloads over 100. In at least one case, I saw someone’s caseload was over 300 students, which is absolute insanity! Inevitably, these exhausted educators then go on to beg their Facebook colleagues for advice and suggestions on how to “maximize their time” (i.e. how to be 8 places at once!). So many are in untenable situations and are set up to fail, which of course will impact their students’ success.

The U.S. Departments of Justice and Education reminded us all in 2015 that “School districts have an obligation to provide the personnel and resources necessary to effectively implement their chosen EL program. This obligation includes having highly qualified teachers to provide language assistance services, trained administrators who can evaluate these teachers, and adequate and appropriate materials for the EL programs” (p. 14).

Unfortunately, there is no student-teacher ratio for English Learners set at the federal level. Like all guidance from the U.S. Department of Education, it is vague and left up to states and districts to decide how to implement their programs. So do any states have student-teacher ratios for English Learners? Yes! Here are some examples:

Do you know of another state that should be added here? If so, please email laura@immigrantsrefugeesandschools.org!

Also, please note, in some cases these staffing ratios are suggestions and not necessarily mandates. Furthermore, some districts follow their state's guidance better than others.

How did these ratios come to be? Advocacy! Advocacy by students, parents, and community partners as well as educators at the local, state, and national levels. Stay tuned for our next blog post where we’ll talk about how educators gain the skills needed to advocate for their English Learners.

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