Nebraska's Tool Kit for Systems Involved in the Education of Students in Out-of-Home Care

Tool D-1:  Frequently Asked Questions
English Language Learner Students and Education Programs

Part Six: Diverse Student Populations
Section D. English Language Learners

young girl studying in libraryThe following summarizes questions about English Language Learner (ELL) students and education programs often posed by the primary systems involved in the education of students in out-of-home care.  The responses are based on federal law, Nebraska statute, administrative rules, regulations and State agency memoranda.  However, in some cases, the response may be primarily dictated by individual student’s situation and needs.  Familiarity and discussion with the school as to how its policies, procedures and protocols may relate to a particular child or youth under a specific set of circumstances is recommended as a matter of “best practice” and may greatly assist in advocating for that student and achievement of his or her academic and vocational goals.

For more information about English Language Learners and Education Programs, refer to the Nebraska Department of Education’s ELL webpage


English Language Learner Students

Who are English Language Learner (ELL) students?
English Language Learner students are those children and youth who:

  • Were not born in the United States;
  • Whose native language is a language other than English; or
  • Who come from an environment where a language other than English has had a significant impact on the student's English language proficiency.
  • And have difficulties speaking, reading, writing or understanding English to achieve successfully in the classroom.


English Language Learner Programs

What are the legal requirements for schools to help English Language Learner students learn English?
Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color or national origin.  In the case of Lau v. Nichols, the United States Supreme Court affirmed the United States Department of Education memorandum of May 25, 1970, which directed school districts to take steps to help ELL students overcome language barriers and ensure they can participate meaningfully in the school district's education programs.  Federal law requires ELL Programs meet the following requirements:

  • Be based on sound educational theory;
  • Be adequately supported, with sufficient and effective staff and resources, so the program has a realistic chance of success; and
  • Periodically evaluated and, if necessary, revised.

How long does a school district have to provide an English Language Learner Program and related services to eligible students?
English Language Learner students must be provided with an ELL Program and related services until they are proficient enough in English to participate meaningfully in the school district's general education program.  To determine whether a student is ready to exit the ELL Program, the school district must consider such factors as the child or youth's ability to keep up with non-ELL student peers in the general education program and participate successfully without the use of adapted or simplified English materials.  Exit criteria for the ELL Program must include some objective measure of the student's ability to read, write, speak and comprehend English.

Are public schools required to educate English Language Learner students who may be undocumented illegal immigrants?
Yes.  In 1982, the United States Supreme Court held in the Plyler v. Doe case that undocumented children and youth have a Constitutional right to receive a free public K-12 (Kindergarten through Grade 12) education.



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