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U.S. Congress Subcommittee Plans to Hold Hearing on ELLs

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Soon, some educators and members of advocacy groups may get a chance to tell members of the U.S. Congress how they think requirements for English-language learners in the No Child Left Behind Act should--or should not--be changed in the law, which is up for reauthorization this year.

Badar Tareen, the press secretary for U.S. Rep. Dale E. Kildee, a Democrat from Michigan, told me in a phone interview this morning that the House subcommittee on early childhood elementary and secondary education plans to hold a hearing on English-language learners and NCLB this month. The hearing is tentatively set for March 29.

Mr. Tareen said that the people who will testify in the hearing haven't yet been selected. But it's my guess that they may include some of those who were invited to attend a Feb. 22 meeting convened by the Democratic staff of the House education and labor committee to talk about reauthorization of NCLB.

I ran into Peter Zamora, the regional counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, recently and he said he had been invited to the Feb. 22 meeting. Along with the Migrant Legal Action Program, MALDEF is the co-chair this year of the Hispanic Education Coalition. It was in his role of representing that coalition that Mr. Zamora was asked by the committee staff to attend that meeting.

It could make a difference if civil rights groups, such as MALDEF and the National Council of La Raza, which have broad constituencies, get the ear of Congress regarding ELLs and NCLB, rather than groups focused only on education, such as the National Association for Bilingual Education or the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, or TESOL.

Both MALDEF and the National Council of La Raza have supported the U.S. Department of Education's existing regulation for NCLB that English-learners be included in states' large-scale standardized assessments after they've attended U.S. schools for only one year. TESOL's recommendations for reauthorization of NCLB, by contrast, call for the federal government to leave it up to local school districts to determine when their English-language learners must take their regular state tests in English. It's hard to know what NABE's position is these days on NCLB because the organization has kept a low profile while going through some organizational struggles. Most of the posts on NABE's Web site about education issues haven't been updated since last summer.

Meanwhile, congressional staff have scheduled a joint House-Senate hearing on NCLB reauthorization for March 13. See This Week in Education for details.


2 Comments

You write: "It could make a difference if civil rights groups, such as MALDEF and the National Council of La Raza, which have broad constituencies, get the ear of Congress regarding ELLs and NCLB, rather than groups focused only on education, such as the National Association for Bilingual Education or the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, or TESOL."

You are right that "MALDEF and the National Council of La Raza have supported the U.S. Department of Education's existing regulation for NCLB that English-learners be included in states' large-scale standardized assessments after they've attended U.S. schools for only one year."

Therefore, "the difference" it will make when they "get the ear" of the Congress will be just as disastrous as this policy has been for English Language Learners.

Bilingual and ESL educators are just those who have been excluded from the process, and these comments seem to suggest this exclusion should deepen. Is this because we present what research has consistently shown about our students' needs, rather than to rely on pure ideology and pragmatism in policy-making?

English language learners, whether testing in the native language or English, need much more than one year in the United States to learn the content of subject area classes sufficient to pass standardized exams. English language learners need five to seven years on average to become able to perform at the native-like level of English proficiency needed at their grade levels, to succeed in school. The huge body of research, which supports this, is what the "broad-based" ideologically driven institutions have ignored, in bargaining away our students educational futures. These are institutions, which have shown themselves incapable of representing the best interests of our students. Why advocate for their opportunity to do further damage?

Juliet Luther
Bilingual Educator/ESL Specialist
Institute for Language and Education Policy

These students need to be taught in English. Their drop out rate is due to the conflict going on in their lives. Their parents do not support them in learning English and only encourage them in talking Spanish. There has been several news stories that have surfaced in the past few weeks that says when the parents learns to speak English then their children school grades start to improve. A news story in the Houston Chronicle from one of their reporters in Mexico City said that the Mexican Government was going to start teaching English in their school systems because of their close ties to the United States. They did not say anything in it about the United States. The Department of Education came out in a newspaper article a couple of months ago stating that certain languages that U.S. students needed to learn and Spanish was not one of the languages listed. I do understand that all of the above groups that were mention in this article all have their own personal goals to achieve or hidden agendas and their are bias in their in viewpoint in attaining these goals.

Thanks
tj

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