english language learners challenges

This article reflects on English Language Learners in public schools. It discusses the difficulties that these students encounter in the classroom, such as a lack of English proficiency. On the other hand, it explores the implications of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which was introduced to determine students’ proficiency levels in the English language. Furthermore, the article discusses the effect of results data on the NCLB-mandated Annual Yearly Progress (AYP). It further stresses the importance of recognizing the obstacles that teachers encounter while evaluating students after the introduction of NCLB. Moreover, it gives recommendations on how the assessment criteria can be made more effective and consistent among the different states. With an effective assessment criterion, the assessment of English Language Learners will be common in all the states.


English language learners are among the population groups that are growing so fast in the school administration. In the near future, the population of English language learners is likely to increase to large numbers due to the continuous increase in population. A bigger proportion of English language learners come from the families which get a low income. In addition, learners who are Spanish-speaking also form a big proportion of the English language learners. Most of these learners have a low academic performance in school when compared to other students. This therefore calls for concern in order to improve their performance as well as address the challenges that are leading to the poor performance (Bax, 2013). Below is a summary of the challenges that many English language learners experience in the classroom setting.

Lack of Proficiency in the English Language

Many English Language learners have inadequate English Language skills which affect hoe they learn the English language. This makes the learners to struggle when expressing their ideas as well as doing simple things such as asking questions to the teacher. As a result, they are not able to effectively communicate with their peers and the teacher. This contributes to a low self-esteem among the learners since they lack the confidence to even express themselves. Low self-esteem and lack of confidence contribute to low academic performance among the learners (Chan et al, 2015).

Previous Learning Experience

The earlier learning experience among the learners greatly affects how they adjust to the new class approaches. This is because many of the learners especially those that are used to the teacher centered approach, have a hard time trying to adjust to the new student centered teaching approach. The student centered learning approach emphasizes on the need for students to interact and express themselves in class. This is different from the teacher centered approach which emphasizes on grammar as well as writing exams. English language learners therefore have a hard time adjusting to the new teaching approach (Green, 2013).

Differences in Cultural Personality

In addition to the problems above, learners face the challenge of communicating with their peers due to differences in their cultural backgrounds. For example, the learners with a western background are more extroverted than the learners from other backgrounds such as the Chinese background, who are introverts (Taylor, 2013). For this reason, the students with an introvert background are great in their reading and writing skills while the extroverts are good in their speaking and listening abilities since they have great interpersonal communication skills.

Challenges during assessment

After the implementation of the No Child Left Behind act, some of the states do not have the assessment systems to assess the English language students. In addition, many inconsistent and proficiency tests emerged. This has created a complicated testing picture since different states use different tests to assess their learners (Berry et al, 2017).Lack of the time and resources to create consistent and quality assessments across the states has resulted to the use of assessments that are unreliable, inaccurate and unfair. In addition, assessing the English Language Learners has been a challenge since the English Language Program standards at the state level do not match with the tests that are created in the same state. This is more common in the states that use commercial tests to assess the English Language learners. When using commercial tests, it is difficult to assess the achievement of the set standards in the state. The mismatch between the standards and the tests has made assessment of English Language learners to be difficult and inconsistent (Bax, 2013).

On the other hand, many states use different achievement levels when grading their learners. Some of the states use five achievement levels such as basic beginner, beginner, low intermediate, high intermediate as well as advanced levels. In contrast, others use different achievement levels such as three levels. This difference in the number of levels used for assessment makes the process of grading English Language learners ineffective. Moreover, the accommodations policies differ substantially among the states too. For example, some of the states allow the learners to use bilingual dictionaries while others only provide simplified directions (Green, 2013).

How a teacher would prepare for ELLs learning using cultural background and prior educational backgrounds

When a teacher becomes aware of the background of English Language Learners, they are able to give the learners experiences that connect to their previous cultural background as well as relevant to them. It is therefore important for the teacher to research about the learner’s native cultures as well as educational backgrounds. In addition, a teacher can also look for ways in which students are able to contribute about their cultural experience in the classroom set up, for example by asking questions. This helps in connecting what is learnt in class with the previous experiences of the learners. On the other hand, a teacher can give learners an assignment where they get the chance to interview their parents and other people around them about their culture. This helps them to appreciate their cultural and educational background as well as understand the concepts taught in class since there is relevance to what they already know. Moreover, it is also necessary for a teacher to find out whether learners are comfortable in sharing their background with the other learners. This helps to ensure that they are feel to share experiences before others (Chan et al, 2015).

Implications of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act on the ELLs

The No Child Left Behind requires all districts as well as schools in any region meet similar academic performance in both reading and math across the whole student body. The English Language Learners make up a sub group of the whole student body. Some of these English Language learners include those that come from economically disadvantaged families, those that have limited language proficiency, students of color as well as those with disabilities. All districts as well as schools are required to conduct Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) that shows that the subgroup of English Language Learners has met the State Proficiency Goal in both reading and math (Berry et al, 2017).

This law has however not being helpful since the assessing these students as required by law is challenging to the teacher. This is due to the fact that the English Language Learners are expected to be able to master content in English before they are able to attain a given level of Proficiency in the English Language (Taylor, 2013).On the other hand, during the testing process, there occur some accommodations that are limited value as well as those that can easily be questioned about their validity. This makes the law to be ineffective and it does not become beneficial to the English Language learners.

Impact of performance data on a school’s Annual Yearly Progress

The data obtained from the performance of English Language learners is important for calculating the Annual Yearly Progress (AYP). The Annual Yearly Progress is important in assessing the level in which the ELLs have been educated in a year. AYP is a common system of promoting accountability among the state schools. When the learners have a low performance, they are not able to meet the expected state academic standards (Chan et al, 2015). On the other hand, when the performance data is high, then the Annual Yearly Progress is also high. This shows that the English Language learners have achieved the expected proficiency level. When a school is not able to achieve the expected Annual Yearly Progress in two consecutive years, then it is identified for the purpose of school improvement. On the other hand, for the cases of high achievement, rewards are given to the schools which show a high performance in the Annual Yearly Progress (Bax, 2013).

Accommodation that is most appropriate for ELLs

To ensure that ELLs become more proficient in English, it is advisable that the period of learning be increased from one year to a longer period of time like three years. This will be beneficial to the learners since they will be able to master English before they get the chance to be tested on their proficiency skills. This will improve their reading skills as well as their performance in Math (Green, 2013).

On the other hand, the NCLB should improve the quality of their assessments so that they are standardized in all the states. This will help in ensuring that all the ELLs conduct tests that are consistent and which clearly evaluate the level of proficiency among the learners. In addition, NCLB should increase the variety of language tests to include other tests such as native language tests. On the other hand, the ELLs should also get the opportunity to improve their academic performance in other areas other than reading and math. This will help them to have a high performance in content areas thus improving them holistically (Berry et al, 2017). Finally, teachers in the institutions with ELLS should be given additional training opportunities for them to be able to address the changing needs of the ELLs.


Bax, S. (2013) The cognitive processing of candidates during reading tests: Evidence from eye-tracking: Language Testing, 30, 441-465.

Chan, S. H. C., Inoue, C., & Taylor, L. (2015). Developing rubrics to assess the reading-into-writing skill: A case study. Assessing Writing, 26, 20-37.

Green, A. (2013). Washback in language assessment. International Journal of English Studies, 13 (2), 39-51.

Berry, V., Galaczi, E., Inoue, C., & Nakatsuhara, F. (2017). Exploring the use of video-conferencing technology in the assessment of spoken language: A mixed-methods study. Language Assessment Quarterly, 14(1), 1-18.

Taylor, L. (2013) Communicating the theory, practice and principles of language testing to test stakeholders: Some reflections. Language Testing, 30, 403-412.

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