Title III – LEP Grants for Limited English Proficient Students

In the blizzard of federal rules, regulations, and allocations for schools, one grant initiative we see is Title III – LEP Grants. These pass-through funds are earmarked for the education of students who are newcomers to our country. They have language challenges and if we don’t have a coordinated program for addressing their language acquisition needs, we all suffer.

Now, before I get going, this blog is not a political forum for discussing issues about immigration and borders, and government responsibilities for managing immigration. The fact is, the kids are here, many have entered this country legally, and their English Language skills need to be evaluated and brought to a level that lets them compete on an equal playing field with other students. They will become productive members of society if we support them now.

New technologies have revolutionized the way we teach language in schools. There are now sophisticated language programs online that have helped us get a handle on language training. The new programs keep track and assess student capabilities when they arrive, then manage their progress as they go along.

There is still a huge need for bilingual teachers in schools. The languages we hear in school hallways have changed. It’s now not just Spanish we hear, it’s every language you can imagine. I know one large urban district that teaches to 52 languages and dialects. It’s staggering, and it’s always amazing to me that schools rise to the challenge and, in general, do a great job. Everyone works together because our future is tied to how well we do with kids while they’re young, and while language acquisition is easiest.

There are many regulations describing how funds may not be used. Here’s a list of ideas for how they can be used:

  • English language instruction educational programs provided after school or on Saturday.
  • Professional development for regular classroom teachers and teachers of limited-English-proficient students. (notice it does not say “paying teachers”)
  • Parental involvement activities designed to assist parents of LEP students to help them work with their children to improve their children’s achievement.
  • Support for parental resource centers so they can address the needs of parents of LEP students.

I believe the federal government needs to revamp the entire Title III picture to broaden the way funds can be spent. In one district I know, people have actually sent funds back because it just isn’t possible to spend them appropriately. The issue is using funds to hire teachers during the school day to provide language training. It’s somewhat murky in the regulations, but I’ve heard of districts being penalized for doing that, the funds were meant for after school or other forms of supplementary instruction.

This doesn’t make sense to me. Students have jobs and family responsibilities; they should be able to receive high quality language instruction in school with core highly qualified teachers at the helm during the school day. And the federal funds should be there to help them do just that. I don’t believe it’s a supplanting issue; the very nature of the challenge makes it a supplementary expense. (Personal opinion only – don’t try this at home).

From ed.gov regulations:
Title III requires that states hold Title III sub grantees accountable for meeting three annual measurable achievement objectives (AMAOs) for English learners.

At the end of the day, there are goals and milestones to be met, and I believe schools and districts in this country perform heroics every day in meeting them.

Let me know how you’re doing. You may network with me by leaving a comment below.


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About Neva Fenno

Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed., MLIS, has been a special education teacher, school library media specialist, curriculum specialist and grants manager for several urban school districts in New York and Massachusetts for 30 years. As grants manager for 7 years, she managed up to $28,000,000 a year in federal, state, foundation and corporate grants from application through fiscal administration. She has hundreds of stories to tell, not all successes, but from each story there is a lesson to be learned.

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