Florida Turns Its Back on English Learners

WASHINGTON, DC—Today, the Florida Legislature failed to address inequality and fairness through two bipartisan amendments supported by UnidosUS (formerly NCLR). The proposed legislation would have fixed the state’s school accountability system—which neglects to factor into its school grades the test scores of many English learners and Latino students, and fails to use a native language assessment when appropriate for many among the 10% of Florida’s K-12 students who are learning English. These amendments were designed to give educators and English learners the data and tools they need to become English proficient and academically successful as swiftly as possible.

Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), in exchange for federal funds, states must track the performance of certain groups of students – racial and ethnic minorities, those from low-income families, English learners and those with disabilities – when assessing schools. Florida’s current education plan, however, sidesteps federal law by bundling together the lowest-performing students – regardless of subgroup. That means schools that are not meeting the needs of every subgroup can still get a passing grade, and parents are none the wiser. What’s more, while the federal government urges states, when appropriate, to test students in their native language – to better assess what they know – Florida bucks that obligation, despite being home to a large English learner population. In fact, Florida seems more interested in whitewashing underserved students’ progress than in tailoring supports, resources and instruction to their needs.

“Education is an equal-rights issue, and UnidosUS is committed to ensuring that all of America’s children – including English learners and other historically underrepresented groups – get the protection and support they need to succeed in school,” said Eric Rodriguez, Vice President of the Office of Policy and Advocacy at UnidosUS. “It’s disgraceful to see Florida’s leaders turn their backs on English learners.”