Draft English Language Learner Plan 2015 to 2018.Over the past several months, we met with families, staff and community members to develop a draft plan for how we provide high-quality supports and services for all of our English Language Learners (ELLs). 

Our district is on a mission to close the gaps in opportunities that lead to disparities in achievement for our students. Part of that work is defining a more comprehensive and thoughtful approach to how we serve our English Language Learners, who now make up 27% of our student body. We’re fortunate to have such linguistic diversity in Madison, but with this asset comes an important responsibility. We need to provide all students the tools they need to succeed.

The Madison Board of Education approved the Draft English Language Learner Plan at the October 26, 2015, regular board meeting.

Thank you to everyone who provided feedback on the draft ELL Plan. Your input has helped to improve the plan for our students and schools. Two reports summarizing your feedback were presented to the board on 6/4/15 and 10/21/15.  Feedback received after 10/1/15 will be reviewed by the Office of Multilingual and Global Education and will continue to inform the work outlined in the plan throughout the next few years. A summary of additions and revisions to the initial draft plan are available here.

Background reading, clarifying the "bilingual controversy"

This article provides insights into the varying perspectives on bilingual education and bilingualism. Additional resources, relevant research and MMSD data are available on page 29 of the ELL Plan, "Additional Information – Annotated Document Links."   

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An English Language Learner (ELL) is a student who comes from a multilingual or non-English speaking family and needs support to understand, speak, read and write the English language at a level that prepares them for academic success in our schools.

Bilingual Education involves teaching academic content in a student’s native language as well as a secondary language. Students develop fluency and literacy in both languages.

Dual Language Immersion (DLI) is a type of bilingual education that integrates students who speak two different native languages.

English as a Second Language (ESL) services provide support to ELL students enrolled in a general education classroom by a certified ESL teacher or Bilingual Resource Teacher.  

The way we serve ELL students needs improvement. Here’s where we stand today:

  • ELL students receiving either ESL services or bilingual education are not reaching the levels of English proficiency at the rate needed to graduate college, career and community ready.

  • Most of the students who qualify for services do not receive bilingual education at their home school.

  • Many ELL students do not receive instruction that supports their unique academic needs, background experiences and cultures.

  • We offer bilingual instruction in Spanish-English only, while we have students who speak Hmong, Korean, Tibetan, Mandarin, Arabic and many other languages.

  • Historically there has been limited professional development provided for educators on teaching ELL students.

  • There is a shortage of bilingual teachers in the U.S.  

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Why is this a problem?  

In Madison, ELL students face a significant gap in achievement compared to our native English speaking students.

Because many do not receive instruction in their native language, ELL students’ academic learning fails to keep pace with native English speakers.

What’s the solution?

Research shows that ELL students who receive bilingual instruction have higher long-term achievement outcomes, resulting in higher graduation rates.

We are looking for ways to provide equitable access to high-quality ELL services like bilingual instruction and ultimately raise achievement for ELL students and close the gap.

While we are making headway, we are developing an English Language Learner Plan to accelerate our progress. The plan will recommend changes to the way we serve students in bilingual programs, dual language immersion (DLI) programs and through ESL services.


The English Language Learner Plan aims to:

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Provide effective instruction to meet our ELL students’ needs

We must offer better, research-based services for ELL students and programs that focus on language and global citizenship for all students. This will involve utilizing a more systematic process for supporting, monitoring and collaborating with schools.

Distribute ELL services more equitably across the district

We must improve student access to bilingual education in all attendance areas and increase the diversity of participation.

Prepare our workforce to teach the growing number of ELL and bilingual students in our schools

We must prepare our educator workforce to teach the growing number of ELL and bilingual students in our schools. This means supporting staff in pursuing Bilingual certification, providing professional development in ESL to teachers, school principals, district staff and administrators and hiring, developing and preparing additional highly qualified staff.

  • Meeting at Vera Court
  • Meeting at Vera Court1
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  • Meeting at Urban League
  • Meeting at Urban League1
  • Meeting at Urban League2