English Learners in New Jersey: Exposing Inequities and Expanding Opportunities in the Wake of the Pandemic

The full English learner report is available for download in English by clicking here. The report’s Executive Summary is available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Korean, Haitian Creole, and Portuguese.

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shift to virtual learning brought into sharp relief the inequities that English Learners (ELs) experience in New Jersey’s public education system. To shine a light on this problem, the Consortium and its partner organizations Education Law Center and NJ Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages/NJ Bilingual Educators (NJTESOL/NJBE) partnered to issue English Learners in New Jersey: Exposing Inequities and Expanding Opportunities in the Wake of the Pandemic.

This detailed report on the state of English learners in New Jersey relies on an in-depth survey of 80 ESL/bilingual educators, administrators and counselors among NJTESOL/NJBE’s membership. We supplemented these survey responses with follow-up interviews, as well as listening sessions with parents, caregivers and youth between April and July 2021.

The report reveals significant inequities in the education English learners receive in some New Jersey school districts. Among the key findings:

  • Over one-third of educators who responded to the survey said the lack of compliance with state regulations for ELs was a “major problem” at their school;
  • Nearly one-third of survey respondents reported no language accommodations in English-only classes for ELs at their school before the pandemic, while 10 percent said that Google Translate was the primary or sole language accommodation their school offered to their EL students;
  • Twenty-six percent of respondents reported no attendance recovery policy at their school, and more reported that their school had failed to communicate their policy to ELs. At some schools, ELs are dropping out in high numbers, with one educator reporting 180 dropouts in her district during the pandemic.