Strategies for Recruiting ELL Students

The new charter law for New York, passed in May 2010 has several implications for charter schools and ELL students. Under the new law:
  • Charter schools must continue to show a good faith effort to attract and retain a comparable or greater enrollment of ELL students when compared with the enrollment numbers of ELL students in other schools in the same district;
  • Charter schools can now be terminated for repeated failure to comply with the requirement to meet or exceed these ELL enrollment and retention targets (unless this would be the only reason for termination and the charter school can show that it made extensive efforts to recruit and retain such students - such as outreach to families and parents in the community, widely publicizing the lottery, and efforts to academically support ELL students);
  • In their annual reports to the Board of Regents, charter schools must now include their efforts in the current school year, and their plan for the next school year, to meet and exceed ELL enrollment and retention targets;
  • Charter school application forms must be provided in the languages predominantly spoken in a charter school's local community; and
  • Applications for new charter schools must include the charter school's plan to meet or exceed ELL enrollment and retention targets.

As charter schools now need to plan for, and document, their efforts to recruit a number of ELL students that is comparable to district schools within the same district, strategies for recruiting ELL students include:
  • Taking time to learn about the cultures and needs of ELL families in your school's community;
  • Creating school recruitment/lottery materials in English and in the school community's predominant languages. Resources for translation services can be accessed at: DOE Translation & Interpretation Unit
  • Understanding that written materials are not always enough - place phone calls to ELL families;
  • Utilizing ELL family members who are already in your school community - have them be spokespeople for your school;
  • Having a bilingual staff member or volunteer who can help answer families' questions and fill out paperwork;
  • Finding community interpretation services for lower-incident languages; and
  • Hosting open-house meetings and providing translated materials and presenters who can translate for families.

Additional Resources

English Language Learner Students and Charter Schools in New York State: Challenges and Opportunities

Under new state law, charter schools are required to meet enrollment and retention targets for English Language Learners. The National Governors' Association's report by NYU researchers Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj and Marcelo Suárez-Orozco discuss strategies for effectively serving these students.

Building Collaboration Between Schools and Parents of English Language Learners: Transcending Barriers, Creating Opportunities
also available at:
This brief by the National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems discusses strategies for overcoming barriers to recruiting and supporting ELL families, such as:
  • Principals need to provide explicit support for parent involvement;
  • Initiating effective communication for parents, instead of waiting for parents to approach the school;
  • Offering open-ended meetings involving teachers and parents to discuss future opportunities for parent involvement;
  • Offering skills-based workshops and informational meetings for families;
  • Providing professional development for teachers around ELL families and their interactions with schools;
  • Purposefully creating school-site decision making bodies that are diverse;
  • Assigning staff time specifically to the work of family-school collaboration;
  • Offering families an adult ESL or adult literacy program;
  • Creating and supporting a school-based parent volunteer program;
  • Creating and supporting a parent leadership development program; and
  • Creating and supporting a district-level parent-school advisory council.

ELLs in Early Childhood Education: Recruiting Immigrant Families
Available at:

Although the article by Colorin Colorado primarily addresses early childhood education, the tips provided are useful for other grade levels and schools. The article provides an overview of why immigrant families may not be enrolling in early childhood programs, and tips for recruiting and supporting immigrant families.

Reasons for Low Enrollment
Tips for Recruiting Immigrant Families
Tips for Supporting Immigrant Families
Socioeconomic factors
Be prepared to meet the needs of immigrant families
Meet with families to discuss their questions and concerns
Lack of access to quality programs
Connect with community groups that serve specific immigrant communities
Recognize that new students may be scared their first few days
Language and communication challenges
Provide program information in families' native languages
Check-in with new students throughout the day and provide them with a quiet place for down time
Different cultural expectations
Advertise in families' native languages
Be clear about, and model, behavior expectations

Have open houses for families
A smile goes a long way

Utilize immigrant families already in your school

Our Children Our Schools
Download the report or available at:
This report, written by Advocates for Children of New York, discusses the importance of involving immigrant families in our schools and offers strategies for how to do so. The report offers suggestions for how schools can:

  • Create welcoming schools;
  • Break down language and communication barriers;
  • Make schools more responsive to parents; and
  • Facilitate immigrant parent leadership in schools.