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October 13, 2021

New Report Finds Insufficient State Support and Troubling Outcomes for Virginia English Learner Students

Virginia’s English learner student population faces significant barriers to education and the state is falling short in providing adequate resources to assist students in overcoming these barriers, according to new analysis from The Commonwealth Institute, a policy research and advocacy organization. Inadequate funding for support services has resulted in Virginia EL students having among the lowest graduation, testing, and higher education enrollment outcomes out of all student groups measured at the state level. Virginia EL students also fare poorly in national comparisons of other states for graduation and achievement. The barriers that EL students face have been exacerbated by the pandemic, and data suggests they have been hardest hit by the disruptions. Based on report findings from analysis of current spending and studies from other states, Virginia needs to provide an additional $132 million to $169 million a year in support for EL students to meet lower-bound estimates to adequately fund their education.

“Persistently underfunding Virginia English learner students has resulted in among the lowest achievement outcomes of all student groups at the state and national level,” said Chad Stewart, manager of education policy and development at The Commonwealth Institute. “Virginia has ample resources and policy pathways to improve services for students learning English. Lessons can be learned from other states that have studied what adequate support looks like for EL students.”

Persistently underfunding Virginia English learner students has resulted in among the lowest achievement outcomes of all student groups at the state and national level. Lessons can be learned from other states that have studied what adequate support looks like for EL students.

Chad Stewart, manager of education policy and development, TCI

Virginia EL students would significantly benefit from the state increasing targeted support to more adequate levels and making it flexible so that schools could use it for functions other than just employing EL teachers. Comprehensive research on school funding over the past decade has led to the inescapable conclusion that funding makes a significant difference over time for achievement, graduation, and higher education enrollment outcomes. Increased funding alone will not solve all of these alarming outcomes, however. Ultimately, a collection of targeted support and policy changes will be needed to holistically address the many barriers facing EL students in Virginia schools. The report offers a series of targeted policy solutions to break down barriers for Virginia EL students and set them on a pathway to reach their full potential.

“Each student brings with them different strengths, interests, and challenges, and being multilingual is a valuable strength that should be nourished in our schools,” said Kathy Mendes, policy analyst for The Commonwealth Institute. “Virginia has the resources and expertise to remove barriers that EL students face to academic success. Moving forward, policymakers can choose to adequately support EL students through a wide array of policy solutions.”

Each student brings with them different strengths, interests, and challenges, and being multilingual is a valuable strength that should be nourished in our schools. Virginia has the resources and expertise to remove barriers that EL students face to academic success.

Kathy Mendes, policy analyst, TCI
Sherri Egerton

sherri@thecommonwealthinstitute.org

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