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Editorial Says Massachusetts Is Failing Its ELLs

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I'll give you one reason why Massachusetts legislators and educators might want to pay careful attention to an editorial about English-language learners in their state published this morning in the Boston Globe: the lawyers who wrote it were key players in convincing a federal judge to rule last month that Texas has violated federal law by not adequately serving ELLs at the secondary level.

The editorial's authors are Roger Rice and Jane Lopez, lawyers for Multicultural Education, Training, and Advocacy, or META, in Somerville, Mass. Along with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, META represented plaintiffs in the Texas case who felt ELLs were getting short shrift.

Mr. Rice and Ms. Lopez argue that low high school graduation rates for ELLs (53 percent graduate) and high drop-out rates (nearly a quarter drop out) show that Massachusetts needs to improve how it educates such students. They also point out that test scores show a large achievement gap between ELLs and non-ELLs.

In Texas, the lawyers similarly used the state's own data to make the case that ELLs weren't being served well.

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META has had a long record of community advocacy for ELLs across the country. In this particular case, it is sad to see Masachusetts' regression as it was one of the first states to pass bilingual education legislation.

The Boston Globe editors are absolutely right on in pointing out the widening of the gap. Our experience in Florida as well as the Texas case should reveal the serious shortcomings of the NCLB touted reforms in the name of ELL and ESE students. Not only are their needs not being met, this obsession with one-size-fits-all testing has not done much in accomodations for these two groups. Not only has ELL education gone backwards, but foreign language education is no longer available to most students either. The political message of keeping our students competitive in a global economy is all talk. Here's to hoping that November will usher in a new school climate where schoolblaming, teacherbashing and students being pushed out will be reversed with the abolition of NCLB. Reformers like these we do not need. We cannot get there from here with minimal standards and educational "experts" like William Bennett and Rod Paige sent to gut the USDOE inside out for the sake of vouchers and charters. Corporate welfare and student progress have never gone hand in hand, and it's high time schools are turned back to the community of teachers and parents.

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