The Obama administration released guidelines Wednesday that highlight the civil rights of students learning English as a second language, who under federal law are guaranteed targeted help and a high-quality public education.
There are about 5 million English-language learners in the United States, or about 9 percent of all public school students, and the number is increasing. So, too, are the number of civil rights complaints concerning English learners, according to the Education Department, while national test scores and other data show a persistent achievement gap between native English speakers and those learning English as a second language.
“It is crucial to the future of our nation that these students, and all students, have equal access to a high-quality education and the opportunity to achieve their full academic potential,” administration officials wrote in an open letter to the nation’s educators. The letter was signed by Catherine E. Lhamon, the Education Department’s assistant secretary for civil rights, and Vanita Gupta, acting assistant attorney general for civil rights in the Justice Department.