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William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058,
Dan Quinn, (517) 203-2940,

Enhancing Education for English Learners through Parental Involvement

EAST LANSING, Mich. (March 19, 2013) –The seventh in a series of two- and three-page briefs summarizing current relevant findings in education policy research urges policymakers to adopt a series of measures that would welcome and involve the parents of English language learners in U.S. schools to improve the achievement of those students.

William Mathis, managing director of the National Education Policy Center, prepared the brief, Research-Based Options for Education Policymaking – English Language Learners and Parental Involvement. Previous sections of Research-Based Options have included: teacher evaluation, common core standards, early childhood education, choice funding, dropout strategies and effective school expenditures.

The enrollment of English language learners (ELLs) in U.S. schools has more than doubled over the last two decades, most of whom are native born. The data show we deny these children equitable opportunities to learn to the detriment of them and their communities, and to the detriment of our larger societal health.

As part of his examination of related research, Mathis points to an earlier policy brief, also funded by the Great Lakes Center, by Beatriz Arias and Milagros Morillo-Campbell that outlines a series of best practices for schools to establish two-way communication with ELL families and to involve those families in the life of the school, in community collaboration, in school governance, and in their children's schoolwork. To accomplish this will require the school to embrace the culture of the community, both in its activities calendar and in its interactions with the parents. School personnel should communicate with parents in their native languages and also provide parents avenues to learn English as well as techniques to help them with their children's education.

To these recommendations for schools, Mathis adds recommendations for policymakers. Adequacy studies identifying resource inequities in serving ELL learners need to be updated and turned into legislation to rectify those problems. He also points to two additional policy needs: to provide adequate professional development that embraces and builds upon the students' cultural backgrounds; and to review and revise state laws and regulations so that school evaluation systems adequately account for high concentrations of ELL students. States must ensure staff, funding, and instructional materials are all of sufficient quality to address ELL students' needs.

Mathis's two-page brief is part of Research-Based Options for Education Policymaking, a multipart brief that takes up a number of important policy issues and identifies policies supported by research. Each section focuses on a different issue, and its recommendations to policymakers are based on the latest scholarship.

The brief is produced by the National Education Policy Center and was made possible with support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Find the brief on the Great Lakes Center website:

Also find William Mathis's brief on the NEPC website:


The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

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