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One District Struggles to Get It Right

This academic study will give ammunition to both sides of the NCLB debate.

In it, researchers S. David Brazer and Erin E. Peters of George Mason University tracked policy changes in an anonymous California district. About half of the districts' 13,000 students speak English as a second language, and its schools are struggling to make AYP with that population.

The district's management team decided to require to elementary schools of offer limited English proficient students English literacy instruction 30 minutes a day, four days a week. The instruction was to be done during the 2 1/2 hours a day of language arts instruction.

Supporters of the law will note that NCLB led to direct changes in district policies to benefit ELL students. Here's a particularly telling interchange between a researcher and the district's curriculum director:

Researcher: Wow! So you just stated that in the past there wasn't even instruction happening in [English language development] for English language learners.
Curriculum Director: Right.

But the study's conclusion suggests that requiring NCLB's achievement goals to be met in a short time period is causing problems in the district. Because of the urgent need to act, the district's leaders didn't take time to win support for their policy change and the new rules were "weakly implemented," the report says.

"Despite their best efforts," the study concludes, district leaders "may be no further ahead on meeting state standards and NCLB demands."

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