+1443 776-2705 panelessays@gmail.com

Research the below topics- write a 2 page reflection of your learning and include any experiences you’ve had with this population. Include any questions you have to approach working with the given population. Consider the following questions:

· What are the issues that this population encounters?

· What socio-emotional issues does this population have to deal with?

· What, if any, are the academic implications?

· What can you do to best serve the population better?

· Why is it important to serve this population?

Journal 6: Support Staff working with English Language Learners- College/

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to: Carolina Perez, former graduate student in Counselor

Education, Educational Foundations & Counseling Programs, Hunter College of the City University of New York New

York, NY 10065 Email: [email protected]

Article 1129

Understanding the Challenges of English Language Learners and

Increasing College-Going Culture: Suggestions for School Counselors

Carolina P. Perez and Stephaney S. Morrison

Perez, Carolina P., is a school counselor for grades 9–12. Perez works with ELLs

and immigrant families to empower and provide them with the resources necessary

to succeed in the United States. As a former ELL and undocumented student who

migrated at the age of 11, her passion is to advocate for immigrant students and


Morrison, Stephaney S., Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Counselor Education

in the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions at Fairfield University,

CT. Dr. Morrison was an elementary/junior high school counselor in her native

country, Jamaica. Her research is focused on issues that impact Caribbean

immigrant families and children; specifically, the academic, socio-emotional, and

career/college issues of Caribbean immigrant children living in the United States.

She also focuses on preparing school counselors to work with immigrant children.


English language learners (ELLs) represent a growing population in the U.S. K–

12 system. Research has shown that these students face many challenges that affect

their trajectory to college. The challenges include, but are not limited to, issues

related to academics, socioeconomic status, parental involvement, and socio-

emotional strains. This article explores the many obstacles ELLs face that affect

their college/career access and attainment and provides suggestions for school

counselors working with ELLs to increase their college-going culture.

Keywords: English language learners, immigrants, college counseling, college-

going culture

English language learners (ELLs) is a term used to refer to students who receive

any language assistance program (Cook, 2015). ELLs in the United States are a diverse

group who speak hundreds of different languages from many parts of the world; they differ

in ethnicity, culture, educational background, and socioeconomic status (American Youth

Policy Forum, 2009). In addition, not all ELLs are immigrants; some are born and raised

in the United States (American Youth Policy Forum, 2009). Although ELLs come from

different backgrounds, it is important to note that the largest group of ELLs in the United

Ideas and Research You Can Use: VISTAS 2016


States are Spanish-speaking students (Winsler et al., 2014). In addition, ELLs are said to

be the fastest growing group of students in K–12 education (Kanno & Cromley, 2015). The

U.S Department of Education (2006) predicted that ELLs will represent 25% of students

by 2025 (as cited in Kanno & Cromley, 2015).The number of ELLs enrolled in public

schools doubled between 1997 and 2008 (National Clearinghouse for English Language

Acquisition, 2010; Winsler, Kim, & Richard, 2014). In the 2005–2006 school year, there

were an estimated 5.1 million ELLs in our public schools (American Youth Policy Forum,

2009). Regardless of where they are born, ELLs face many obstacles relating to their access

to higher education. They oftentimes fall behind and fail to be college and career ready.

They are notably less likely to both enroll and attain a postsecondary education (Kanno &

Cromley, 2015).

Yet, there is a lack of literature regarding effective ways to guide ELLs to higher

education and how to get them college and career ready. The existing, yet very limited,

studies that focus on school counselors working with ELLs focus largely on Latino/a

students (Cook, 2015). Still, there is a lack of guidance for school counselors to effectively

work through the college-going process of all ELLs, regardless of their background (Cook,

Pérusse, & Rojas, 2015). School counselors are critical to college-going success and

trajectory to college.

The purpose of this article is to briefly discuss some of the obstacles faced by ELLs

that impact their college opportunities. The authors discuss the challenges faced and

provide suggestions to aid school counselors in creating a more college-going culture for

ELLs. Specifically, we discuss pertinent laws that impact ELLs, obstacles pertaining to

academics, socio-emotional strains, socioeconomic status, immigration status, and parental

involvement. Finally, we offer various suggestions for school counselors.

Laws/Policies Affecting English Language Learners

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA; Title VII), enacted in 1967,

held states and districts accountable to improve the English language skills of ELLs

(American Youth Policy Forum, 2009). The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), enacted

in 2002, provided funding for bilingual education and English as a second language (ESL)

programs. Though NCLB provided support for ELLs (American Youth Policy Forum,

2009), it also required that ELLs partake in yearly assessments to test their English

language skills and academic content knowledge (Menken, 2010). In 2007, the U.S.

Department of Education stated that all ELL’s are required to take these exams after one

year of living in the United States (Menken, 2010). However, after only one year of

entering the United States, newcomers are not linguistically prepared to partake in these

national assessments (Menken, 2010). With the recent passage of the Every Student

Succeeds Act (ESSA), schools have the choice to either continue testing ELLs as it is done

under NCLB or test students in math and reading (Klein, 2015). Content exams necessary

for students to pass are based on Standard American English, which ELLs are not able to

manage (Menken, 2010). Therefore, the results may be negatively impacted not because of

the lack of content knowledge but because of the lack of language understanding (Cook et

al., 2015). The assessment results shed light to the low academic achievement levels of

ELLs across the United States (American Youth Policy Forum, 2009).

Ideas and Research You Can Use: VISTAS 2016


The fact that ELLs are underperforming in assessments does not mean they are less

knowledgeable or less able, it solely means they are still learning English and language is

posing a barrier in their performance scores. With the rise of high-stakes testing, language

has been seen as a problem due to the lower test scores of newcomer students who do not

speak English (Baker, 2011). Unfortunately, under NCLB, if students do not show progress

in yearly standardized tests, schools may face closures or the loss of federal funding

(Menken, 2010). Often this problem is solely attributed to newcomer ELLs, though there

are also U.S. born students who enter public schools with limited English language skills

(Baker, 2011). With the passage of ESSA, schools have an option on when to apply ELLs

assessments scores to their school rating—include the assessment scores of ELLs who have

been in the country only a year for school rating purposes or have ELLs partake in the

reading and math assessment but not count the scores in the first year. In the second year,

the scores would have to show some progress, and in the third year the scores would be

treated as any other student for school rating purposes (Klein, 2015). School counselors

need to pay special attention to these obstacles ELLs face and provide necessary preventive

and intervention plans to combat these challenges. School counselors will also need to

advocate for better services for these students (Morrison et al., 2016).

Obstacles to College Access for English Language Learners

ELLs enter a system that believes they should learn English at the expense of their

academics (Kanno & Cromley, 2015). According to the American Youth Policy Forum

(2009), “When ELLs enter public schools, they face the dual challenges of learning a new

language while keeping up with the academic content of their grade level” (p. 2). Further,

they are tracked into ESL classes and left out of academic tracks, which leaves them

isolated from their native English-speaking peers (Jaffe-Walter & Lee, 2011). The effects

of the many disadvantages ELLs face in and outside of school are evident when comparing

the access and attainment of higher education between ELLs and monolingual English-

speaking students. ELLs are less likely to attend a higher education institution than their

monolingual counterparts (Cook, 2015). When ELLs are restricted from rigorous curricula,

they are more likely than English-proficient students or English-monolingual students to

attend a two-year institution rather than a four year college (Kanno & Cromley, 2015).

ELLs are more likely to not transfer to a four-year institution than their native counterparts

and more likely to not finish their degrees (Kanno & Cromley, 2015). Regrettably, it is

estimated that 70% of students who start at two-year colleges do not go on to a four-year

institution. Kanno and Cromley (2015) reported that only 18% of ELLs enter a four-year

institution compared to 43% of monolingual students and 38% of English-proficient

linguistic minority students (students who master the English language but speak a non-

English language at home). Furthermore, only 12% of those students attain their four-year

degree within eight years of high school graduation compared to 32% of their monolingual

counterparts and 25% of English-proficient students (Kanno & Cromley, 2015).

As noted, the access and attainment of higher education for ELLs is significantly

lower; therefore, school counselors should be aware of the challenges faced by ELLs that

affect their trajectory to college and find ways to rectify them. In line with the three

domains of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) model (i.e., academic,

career, and social/emotional), school counselors need to prepare all students to be career

Ideas and Research You Can Use: VISTAS 2016


and college ready and to succeed academically (ASCA, 2012). This includes students who

are ELLs, regardless of their nationality. If school counselors do not take action to assess

the academic experience of ELLs, they risk not giving due diligence towards the ethical

standards of the counseling professions (ASCA, 2012).

It is important to encourage ELLs to attend college, as higher education has been

associated with better economic outcomes, better health, and more active civic

participation (Kanno & Grosik, 2012). The United States would benefit from having ELLs

attend college, as it is currently not producing enough college graduates to preserve its

competitive power over other developed nations (Kanno & Grosik, 2012). President

Obama recognized the need of having more college graduates by creating the American

Graduation Initiative to increase the number of community college graduates by 5 million

by 2020 (Kanno & Grosik, 2012; Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation,

2009). It is important to recognize that none of these initiatives would be possible if we do

not address the needs of ELLs in their trajectory to college (Kanno & Grosik, 2012).

Garrett and Holcomb (2005) found that schools, for the most part, are not prepared

to work with ELLs. Moreover, schools are often in denial as to the magnitude of ELLs and

their many challenges; this continues until it is too late to provide services and assist these

students (Lee, 2012). Additionally, schools fail to invest enough in resources for ESL

programs (Lee, 2012). Based on the lack of support and resources to assist ELLs, these

students are often in a pivotal place to fail (Kanno & Cromley, 2015). When ELLs enter

public education, language acquisition takes precedent over academic content (American

Youth Policy Forum, 2009; Kanno & Cromley, 2015). For example, because ELLs struggle

to excel in the English language, they are often underprepared in their college essay

writing, which directly affects the college application process (Kanno & Grosik, 2012).

Further, limited English language skills also negatively affect the scores of entrance exams

such as the SATs which limits entrance to selective institutions (Kanno & Grosik, 2012).

In addition to lack of preparation, there is a misconception that ELLs are not qualified for

higher education (Kanno & Cromley, 2015).

Academic preparation is one of the most important factors in predicting college

access and success. Unfortunately, ELLs continue to be underprepared for college. The

results from the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that in a 500

point assessment, there was a 55 point difference between 12th-grade ELLs and non-ELLs

in reading and a 44 point difference in mathematics (as cited in Kanno & Cromley, 2015).

Thus, in general, ELLs’ assessment results are lower than their monolingual counterparts.

Additionally, ELLs have a higher dropout rate; in 2007, 21% of foreign-born students

dropped out compared to 8% of their native-born peers (American Youth Policy Forum,


School counselors need to advocate for English as a new language (ENL) classes

for students who need this resource to competently learn English as well as advocate for

students to have access to advanced classes when appropriate. When students do not have

access to advanced classes, it impacts the opportunities for students to partake in college

preparatory courses and lowers academic achievements (Kanno & Grosik, 2012). For

instance, in high school, ELLs enroll in AP classes by a third less than their native

counterparts. Hence, ELLs in advanced courses are the exception and not the rule (Kanno

Ideas and Research You Can Use: VISTAS 2016


& Cromley, 2015). Since school counselors have access to students’ academic records,

they are instrumental in promoting ELLs who have demonstrated the ability to highly

perform in their classes and should have access to advanced courses (Cook et al., 2015).

Counselors may also ask teachers to identify and recommend students to honor or AP

classes when appropriate. Further, according to Menken and Kleyn (2010), there is an

inadequate implementation of researched-based best practices to foster ELLs’ English

attainment and proficiency. Menken and Kleyn also stated that the lack of resources results

in ELLs staying in ESL programs semi-permanently. Thus, the longer they remain not

reclassified from ESL, the longer they are restricted from rigorous curricula (Kanno &

Cromley, 2015).

Another group of students who school counselors need to be aware of and be

proactive in helping are the late-entrant ELLs, a unique sub-population of ELL students

who begin to learn English during their high school years (Lee, 2012). Lee (2012)

explained that late-entrant ELLs do not have enough time to learn academic English; He

noted that the language acquisition process of academic English can take 4–7 years. Thus,

late entrant ELLs do not have enough time to acquire the necessary English language skills

to succeed (Kanno & Grosik, 2012). Winsler et al. (2014) purported that students who

become proficient in English early on in their educational careers perform noticeably better

in school as opposed to students who begin in high school (Kanno & Harklau, 2012). When

students begin to learn English after elementary school, they have a difficult time catching

up with their classmates (Kanno & Harklau, 2012). Thus, they are underprepared for

college and struggle in national assessments; they linger with difficulty to gather

graduation requirements. A growing number of these immigrant students have experienced

interrupted formal education, increasing the gap between them and their native

counterparts by two or more years (Advocates for Children, 2010). These students at times

are not literate in their native language, thus making it more difficult to acquire English

language skills (Lee, 2012).

Bilingual children have shown advantages in various domains of cognitive

functioning (Winsler et al., 2014). However, the process before ELLs become proficient in

English presents them with various socio-emotional challenges. That is, students with

limited English language skills who have a thicker accent are subject to discrimination,

ridicule, and harassment from students, teachers, and school administration (Peguero,

2008). These emotional factors related to racism and discrimination negatively impact the

academic achievement of ELLs (Cook, 2015). Adding on to ELLs’ stress level is that they

have to stand as interpreters for their parents, who typically learn English at a slower rate

than their children. Having this responsibility often causes children to feel nervous and

embarrassed (Kam & Lazarevic, 2014). Additionally, ELLs are known to have a variety of

responsibilities at home from child care to having to provide economically to help their

families (Perez, 2009). These different living situations force students to be very

independent (Jaffe-Walter & Lee, 2011), which creates a strain in the family dynamics and

causes children to feel resentment toward parents and experience acculturation stress,

depression, and anxiety, possibly leading to aggression and delinquency (Kam &

Lazarevic, 2014). On the other hand, ELLs are known to value education and, despite their

Ideas and Research You Can Use: VISTAS 2016


various disadvantages, become resilient individuals and prioritize their education (Perez,


School counselors also need to be aware of ELLs who are recent immigrants and

who face a few added psychological strains that derive from migration. Being expected to

leave one’s home and restart a new life in a strange place is hard enough, but experiencing

that change as a child or adolescent is additionally burdensome (Pong & Hao, 2007). Aside

from the strain of entering a new school in a new country, they are faced with long

separations from families and the loss of leaving their home country behind (Jaffe-Walter

& Lee, 2011; Pong & Hao, 2007). Every student’s migration story is different, but it is

important to note that a subgroup of these students may be experiencing the effects of

trauma (Acuña & Escudero, 2015). Further, in recent years, there has been an increase of

unaccompanied minors from Central America who have experienced extreme violence, a

difficult migration path (crossing border), detention centers, and sexual abuse on top of the

common emotional strains of migration (Acuña & Escudero, 2015), as well as refugee

children from other parts of the world whose pre-migration experiences and resettlement

circumstances present significant psychological distress (Sullivan & Simonson, 2015). For

this subgroup of ELLs, trauma can affect every aspect of their lives including pleasure,

engagements, control, and trust (Acuña & Escudero, 2015). These are important issues that

school counselors need to be aware of so that they can provide the psychological support

for these students.

Approximately 75% of ELLs come from low-income families (Kanno & Cromley,

2015). Thus, the majority are from families who are members of the working class and who

attend under-resourced schools in urban areas (Jaffe-Walter & Lee, 2011). Considering

these additional challenges, low income ELLs struggle to afford the rising tuition of higher

education, which may impede ELLs from attending college (Kanno & Cromley, 2015).

Based on the obstacles involved in getting a higher education, ELLs may not likely attend

a four-year college, although getting a bachelor’s degree is one of the most effective ways

to get out of poverty (Kanno & Cromley, 2015).The high cost of higher education will

affect academic and economic choices for ELLs (Kanno & Grosik, 2012).

Immigration Status
As many ELLs are immigrants, legal status may be an issue when thinking about

college (Perez, 2009). Undocumented ELLs face challenges that are additionally

burdensome. Though there is no knowledge of how many ELLs are undocumented, 31%

of all the youth eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) are limited

English proficient (Kanno & Cromley, 2015). Catastrophically, only 10–20% of

undocumented students who graduate from U.S. high schools continue on to college (Perez,

2009). Undocumented students are not eligible for financial aid or student loans, and they

are limited in their selection of careers (Morrison et al., 2016). Being undocumented means

that ELLs will have a difficult time accessing higher education institutions. As a response,

some states have created policies to help their undocumented students attend college in the

form of charging in-state tuition regardless of legal status (Nienhusser, 2013). The

remaining states charge out-of-state tuition, regardless of how many years immigrant youth

Ideas and Research You Can Use: VISTAS 2016


resided in that state. This makes it difficult for undocumented students to think of college

due to the high costs (Perez, 2009).

Parental Involvement
Parental involvement is continuously shown to be an issue for ELLs (Cook et al.,

2015). Parents of ELLs are shown to have received less education than parents of non-

ELLs and thus are less able to guide students in their postsecondary education (Kanno &

Cromley, 2015). Only 22% of ELLs’ parents have a postsecondary degree compared to

44% of non-ELLs’ parents (American Youth Policy Forum, 2009). In a study performed

by Kanno and Cromley (2013), parents of ELLs on average received a score of 2.19 for

their educational level compared to 3.13 for parents of non-ELLs, with “2” demonstrating

high school graduation and “3” demonstrating less than two years of college. This means

ELLs do not have parents who are able to guide them through their college and career

exploration. However, this does not mean that parents of ELLs have lower expectations of

their children or that they do not want to be involved in their education, it solely means

they may not be knowledgeable on how to effectively participate in their students’

education (Delgado, Huerta, & Campos, 2012). Delgado et al. (2012), also studied this

phenomenon and explained the importance of getting parents to be involved in schools.

They found that parents tend to not be involved because they are concerned with their own

academic and language skills. Also, it is important to recognize that different cultures

conceptualize parental involvement in different ways that may not exactly be what U.S.

schools need (Delgado et al., 2012). Additionally, ELLs tend to attend underfunded schools

where guidance may not be adequately provided (Kanno & Cromley, 2015). Thus, ELLs

lack access to appropriate guidance from parents and/or educators. These are important

issues that must be considered as school counselors think about ways in which they can

involve ELL parents.

Suggestions for School Counselors

School counselors play a vital role in the academic trajectory, college-going

process, and career success of underserved students (Morrison et al., 2016; Nienhusser,

2013). Yet, many times school counselors lack the time or information to work with

underserved populations such as ELLs. In a response to the lack of information available

to school counselors on how to effectively help ELLs get to college, the following

suggestions were gathered.

First, ELLs face many academic obstacles. They enter a system that often excludes

them from college preparatory courses (Kanno & Grosik, 2012). To rectify this

phenomenon, school counselors should advocate for students to have a fair chance at taking

Advanced Placement courses or courses that give college credit (Cook et al., 2015). Doing

so will lower the cost of college and improve college readiness (Perez, 2010). It is

important to reframe the approach to ELLs from deficit based to asset based (American

Youth Policy Forum, 2009). When talking to students about their college choices, school

counselors may consider the fact that institutions look at ELLs differently; for example,

some institutions do not give credit for ESL classes, adding to costs (Kanno & Grosik,

2012). Thus, counselors can help students weigh their options by comparing how colleges

Ideas and Research You Can Use: VISTAS 2016


view and treat their ELLs. This way, counselors can serve as mentors and advocates to

encourage academic success (Cook et al., 2015).

Another important issue that school counselors need to focus on is the fact that

many ELLs do not have college information (Kanno & Grosik, 2012). They often lack

necessary information about the college-going process (Jaffe-Walter & Lee, 2011; Kanno

& Grosik, 2012). Therefore, based on the language barriers and lack of information, school

counselors must explain the college-going process to ELLs in appropriate language and

with a vast amount of information on the background of the U.S. education system (Kanno

& Grosik, 2012). Having limited information may also affect the financial aid students

receive (Jaffe-Walter & Lee, 2011). For example, ELLs may require school counselors to

sit down with them to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), as

just pointing them to the Web site may not be enough (Kanno & Grosik, 2012). Kim (2012)

detailed the lesson plan of a four-week college and career planning research project that

helped ELLs learn the importance of college and career planning and also improve their

writing and researching skills. In this project, students were expected to write about their

career goals, research institutions for their careers and the college application process, and

create a financial plan. Research has highlighted the significance of educating not only

students but also parents about the college-going process (Jaffe-Walter & Lee, 2011).

School counselors may also set up hands-on workshops for students and parents to

carefully walk them through the application process, including financial aid, and to provide

translators when necessary (Kanno & Grosik, 2012).

Third, when working with ELLs, school counselors should pay extra attention to

those students who may be undocumented; they should address short- and long-term goals

and educate them about their rights and available resources (Morrison et al., 2016). It is

important for school counselors to go above and beyond for students who may be

undocumented, as they face extraneous difficulties when planning for college.

Undocumented ELL students will benefit from learning about available resources, such as

scholarships that do not have residency requirements, and eligibility requirements for in-

state tuition (Cook et al., 2015). Moreover, school counselors must stay up to date on

legislation that affects undocumented college-bound students (Morrison et al., 2016).

Nienhusser (2013) highlighted the role of school counselors in the college choice of

undocumented students. He recommended for school counselors to engage students in one-

on-one counseling, various college presentations, extensive and intentional curriculum, and

outreach plus delivery of resources such as scholarships.

Fourth, parental involvement is another issue for most ELLs, where parents are

unable to be involved in school for various reasons. Whether parents are not involved due

to late work hours or fear, school counselors should make an effort to increase parental

involvement (Cook et al., 2015). Providing workshops (Kanno & Grosik, 2012) and parent

nights (Cook et al., 2015) are a vital component to build rapport with parents of ELLs.

Which in turn may provide a welcoming atmosphere for parents. School counselors should

give a chance for the parents to provide input, share their thoughts, questions and concerns

about the college and career transition (Cook et al., 2015). Lastly, collaboration between

the school and community can create more resources for parental involvement (American

Youth Policy Forum, 2009).

Fifth, ELLs, regardless of status or background, may face various socio-emotional

strains such as discrimination and bullying. It is important to consider these as they may