February 11, 2016 by

Empowering Our Culturally and Linguistically Diverse English Learners

WholeChildBannerASCD Whole Child Podcast

Our schools are responsible for meeting the educational needs of an increasingly diverse student population, including those who are learning the English language. These English learners represent nearly 10 percent of the total K–12 student population and are the fastest growing segment in U.S. public schools, yet they are almost twice as likely as their native-English-speaking classmates to drop out of school.

At the same time, the majority of students (especially native-English speaking students) are being encouraged to become global citizens—that is, to become students who have a global outlook and an understanding of other cultures and are able to converse in other languages. Aren’t English learners already halfway to becoming global citizens? And should we do doing a better job of developing these inherent skills and attributes?

Currently, most teachers aren’t taught how to meet the long-term needs of linguistically and culturally diverse students. Rather than student’s diverse needs and skills being viewed as a positive, they are too often viewed as a negative. On this episode of the Whole Child Podcast, we explore how educators can create equitable educational settings that utilize the skills and knowledge of English learners as they navigate multiple languages and cultures.

Listen to the episode below or download here.


  • Emily Davis is the director of educator engagement at ASCD. She was a U.S. Department of Education Teacher Ambassador Fellow in 2013 and 2014, after which she stayed with the Department as a special assistant for teacher leadership. Previously, Davis was a classroom teacher for 10 years. She has taught English to speakers of other languages in Syracuse, N.Y.; Spanish in St. Augustine, Fla., and Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.; and leadership and academic recovery courses at Opportunities for Learning, a nonprofit charter school in Los Angeles that offers classes through independent study. Connect with Davis on Twitter @emilydavis4edu.
  • Aman Dhanda is a 6th grade teacher at Woodland Prairie Elementary School in Woodland, Calif., and a 2015 U.S. Department of Education Teacher Ambassador Fellow. During her 10 years in the Woodland Joint Unified School District, she has served as a member of school and district leadership committees, mentor teacher, math coach, Accelerated Reader administrator, technology coordinator, and teacher in charge. Teaching in Woodland’s Title I schools has allowed her to work with diverse student populations with large percentages of English learners. Connect with Dhanda on Twitter @missdhanda.
  • Jane Hill is a managing consultant for McREL International, where she consults and trains teachers and administrators nationally and internationally. Prior to joining McREL, Hill worked as a speech and language specialist, with a focus on bilingual special education; directed a two-way language school; and served as a district office director for second language acquisition and special education. Her most recent endeavor involves collaborating with state departments of education to offer a long-term professional development program for instructional leadership teams interested in leading English-language learner reform efforts. Hill is the coauthor of Classroom Instruction That Works with English Language Learners, and her article “Engaging Your Beginners” is featured in the February 2016 issue of Educational Leadership®
  • Adam Holman is a former physics teacher and current assistant principal at Murchison Middle School in Austin, Tex. He is a member of the ASCD Emerging Leaders Class of 2015 and recently shared his thoughts on how to connect a school with its community on ASCD’s blog, Inservice. He is obsessed with learning about learning and creating a school culture that empowers students to develop ownership of this learning. Connect with Holman on Twitter @AGHolman.

 Take Your Learning Further

How can you make sure the English learners in your school increase their content knowledge and grow in their English abilities? Find out in the February 2016 issue of Educational Leadership (EL) magazine. The issue shares expert and practitioner ideas on effective strategies and programs, overcoming the teacher-quality gap, breaking down barriers to meaningful communication, and much more.

Access these articles on the go with the free EL app, available for download in iTunes, Google Play, or the Amazon Appstore. If you do not currently receive Educational Leadership magazine, subscribe now to stay informed about new ideas and best practices for educators.

Your goal in education is to learn, teach, and lead. Here’s your tailor-made solution. The 71st ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show in Atlanta, Georgia, April 2–4, encourages you to move from vision to action with hundreds of sessions to choose from across more than 30 different topic areas uniquely designed to serve educators at all levels. Join your peers to share knowledge, learn from others, and gain tools to help lead education into the future. Learn more and register at www.ascd.org/annualconference.

What can you do to establish a nurturing environment for English learners in your school?


The Whole Child Podcast: Changing the Conversation About Education seeks to inform and engage educators, parents, and community members about what works in today’s schools. Guests include educational leaders, practitioners, policymakers, researchers, and students from around the globe who share their insight into sound education policies and practices that ensure that each student is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.

Klea Scharberg is project manager for Whole Child Programs at ASCD where she works to build awareness and perform outreach for the Whole Child Initiative. The initiative is part of a broad, multiyear plan to shift public dialogue about education from an academic focus to a whole child approach that encompasses all factors required for successful student outcomes, enhancing learning by addressing each student's social, emotional, physical, and academic needs through the shared contributions of schools, families, communities, and policymakers.