With the right instruction, tech opens doors for ELLs

One device can open many doors for English language learners, especially if they take their edtech home and teach their family members to use it

Even before COVID-19, reading scores among U.S. students had been declining for the first time in a decade, something that jeopardizes a generation’s achievement and mobility. As this trend was taking place nationally, more immigrant families were moving to Midwestern communities, including my home in Louisville, Kentucky.

While many cities across the country may find themselves unable to accommodate this influx of learners, here at Newcomer Academy, we have built a curriculum and infrastructure to support learners of all types and at scale. This means, at any time, we can welcome new families and students with the tools and resources they need to unlock learning.

Between 2013 and 2020, Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) saw double-digit English-learner growth, including 25 percent growth in the 2019-2020 school year alone – a 20-year high. This year, the county has enrolled more than 14,000 English learners. It was this growing population that led JCPS in 2007 to create the Newcomer Academy, a school designed for English language learners in sixth through 12th grades.

At Newcomer, where I’m the principal, this is the first year that most students are enrolled in an American school, and many had limited or interrupted school experiences in their native countries. In fact, about one-third have an educational gap of at least three years.