Blog Series

I AM MORE than an English language learner

by Voyager Sopris Learning on Dec 6, 2018

  • ELL
  • Literacy
  • Reading Intervention
  • Struggling Readers
Originally published November 2017

English language learners (ELL) often enter U.S. schools with a literacy disadvantage. While they may be proficient in their native language, many struggle to attain the English literacy and language skills needed to succeed academically and engage in social interactions with their peers. 

The good news is these students are not alone. Every year, new students arrive from countries around the world where English is not the native language. Increasingly, U.S. school district officials are finding they have students representing dozens of languages and cultures, all working to become proficient in English. Each district faces the same challenge: Finding the best way to help these students attain the skills they need. Some students may have a very basic knowledge of English, while others have no background at all. Helping each student at their point of need is critical to helping them advance at a pace that builds confidence and moves them to grade-level success.

92 Countries, 80 Languages

In Knox County Schools in Tennessee, the district serves approximately 3,100 English language learners from 92 different countries with 80 distinct languages. At one school, Northwest Middle, 60 percent of the students entering sixth grade cannot read above the third-grade level. Like the rest of the district, Northwest is diverse—serving many non-Spanish speaking students, as well as students in the United States with refugee status.

Martin's Story

One Northwest student, Martin, an English language learner, fell into the 60 percent of students who could not read above third grade. Often frustrated and bored, Martin developed an attitude that resulted in disciplinary referrals. To help move him toward grade-level reading proficiency, Martin was enrolled in a class using LANGUAGE!® Live, a comprehensive blended learning solution for struggling adolescent students in grades 5–12. 

When Martin began using LANGUAGE! Live, he was in the 10th percentile of his peers for English language arts. Martin admits he was not a motivated learner, “Before I was in this class, it was kind of boring to be at school. When I got to this program, I thought it was kind of interesting, which helped me a lot with my reports.”

After a year in the LANGUAGE! Live program, Martin's progress was so impressive he moved to Tier 2, which meant he no longer needed to attend summer school to catch up to his peers. In a year’s time, he went from being an unmotivated, disengaged student to an enthusiastic learner, excited about making progress and becoming proficient in English.

Carol Loy, principal of Northwest Middle, says “by the eighth grade, that 60 percent number has been greatly reduced and I have no doubt in my mind, it’s because we implement LANGUAGE! Live with fidelity.”



Martin is one of many English language learners at Northwest Middle School who are meeting, and even, exceeding their goals. With LANGUAGE! Live, these students are becoming more than English language learners—they are becoming confident, engaged students who overcome literacy and language barriers to achieve academic success.

Visit believeliteracyispossible.com for more information, stories about student success, and helpful resources. Join us this fall as we celebrate the potential in every student.

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