Russellville, Alabama, US, is using a historic amount of COVID-19 relief money to fund a bold experiment: They’re using the temporary funds to hire and certify more local, Spanish speaking staff to help the city’s large population of English language learners. In addition to helping more local students succeed, Russellville aims to be a model for the rest of the state. As Alabama grapples with teacher shortages, especially in staff-support areas, local leaders are hopeful that their results can convince the legislature to support broader efforts to fund and certify more English Language (EL) staff. The city is bucking a national trend; as a group, EL learners performed lower on language proficiency tests during the pandemic. But in Russellville, the percentage of students who met their language proficiency goals increased from 46% in 2019 to 61% in 2022. At two elementary schools, proficiency jumped by nearly 30%. “We want to make sure that if students come to this country, if they’re not able to read, that they learn to read quickly and in English. We’re going to continue to invest in that, because it’s our belief that every child deserves a high quality education,” said Eric Mackey, State Superintendent.

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