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Some Education Groups Oppose Move of Title III Grant Program


The agenda for the LEP Partnership meeting scheduled for this Wednesday and Thursday lists Zollie Stevenson as the director of student achievement and school accountability programs for both Title I and Title III programs of the No Child Left Behind Act. Title I authorizes funds for disadvantaged students and also includes some provisions for English-language learners, and Title III is the main conduit of funding for English-language-acquisition programs.

Mr. Stevenson's title [Updated: Previously I wrote "Ms. Stevenson." My apologies.] indicates that the U.S. Department of Education has carried through with its intent to put Title I and Title III under the same administration, effective this fall. The Title III program had previously been administered by the office of English-language acquisition, or OELA.

Rosa Castro Feinberg, the education commissioner for Florida's League of United Latin American Citizens, tells me that a number of education organizations have sent a letter to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings opposing the move of the Title III program from OELA. She forwarded the Aug. 28 letter to me.

In the letter, the organizations point out that "OELA is the only federal office charged with addressing the education needs of ELLs." The letter continues:

At a time when ELLs are growing in number and prominence in policy discussions, the department plans to parcel out core functions of the OELA. We are concerned that this sends a message to ELL educators that the education of ELLs can be addressed with a weaker federal office rather than a stronger one.

Among the national groups that signed the letter are the National Council of La Raza, National Education Association, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, and Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. LULAC, which had already publicly opposed the move of the Title III program, has also signed the letter.

Federal education officials have said the move will provide better coordination of the administration and monitoring of the two programs.


I agree with these organizations. Why is the administration doing this when they are on the way out the door? It looks like a last ditch effort to prove they have done something.

If the way my district handles these funds and directives is any indication, this is a positive move. Separate but equal does not always apply in terms of office authority and response.

In the 35+ years I have worked on education issues impacting ELL students, I have always found that Title I minimally addresses the actual language and learning needs of these students. That is because the expertise in Title I is very different from that which is needed for ELL's. At a time when even the excellent research on best practices for ELL's is ignored, a move such as this would put critical pedagogical direction and leadership further into the background when exactly the opposite is needed.

Everything is geared towards ignoring ESOL students and just thinking that everything will be fine if they just are taught in English.

Title I does not address the actual language and learning needs of ELL students. I do not agree the move of the Title III program from office of English-language acquisition, or OELA.

I apologize for the length of my contribution to this topic. I recently sent an email to Senator Romero here in CA. I asked for help with items, possibly through the introduction of a bill, that relate to what is in discussion here. I touched on the need for experience and understanding which, in this case, goes hand in hand to the established experience regarding ELs held by OELA, the current administration in charge of Title III vs. the possible lack of experience and understanding on behalf of the proposed administration currently handling Title I. I also highlighted the need for the necessary support, monitoring and enforcement of Title III and Title I requirements; which, as it pertains to the current topic, may worsen under an already burdened administration in charge of Title I. I questioned the lack of enforcement of CPM – Categorical Program Monitoring and the lack of understanding of a proper measurement tool for ELD; in our case CELDT – CA English Language Development Test I’ve included a considerable portion of my letter to the senator with the hope of establishing the need for a strong OELA as a common front, with increased expertise and the necessary backing for action to assist ELs:

“We are holding the teachers (schools) accountable, but are failing as demonstrated through the ever increasing numbers of PI schools and districts throughout all of CA. The people are misled in regards to the effects of Prop 227 as per the positive reports given based on results on the CELDT (CA English Language Development Test) for which I have been a trainer of trainers three years during the past seven years. Why do I state this; it is simple for you to verify, request the changes made as far as what is now accepted in comparison to the year before; although minimal changes; these lead to a better score since we are now accepting responses that would have been considered wrong the year prior. For example when asking to provide the opposite to (this is similar to what is on the test. I can’t provide you with something directly from the test itself) behind, you would expect the student to have to answer in front; but now, an answer such as here or in between is accepted as an opposite. The reasoning given by CTB is that it is not the same response (behind) and they (the students) have the general idea of what is being asked. Well; if the students responded similarly last year, the answer was wrong. This year, it would be right. There was a change in what was acceptable in the writing rubric as well. Once you add up the points, there is obviously going to be a minor improvement in the score from one year to the next. Another point is that the monitoring system under CPM – Categorical Program Monitoring from CDE – California Department of Education is not working. Either they do not have enough resources to monitor appropriately or they do not have the authority to ensure that the current “good” laws in place are followed and that students are benefitting. We were to receive a visit this year, but we “lucked out.” Had they come to visit our HS and middle school, we would have been found to be out of compliance on various items regarding ELs and Special Education. We are not even being held accountable for the “CPM self-review” that is now mandated on a yearly basis. I don’t know of any district, that is not under direct supervision from CDE, that is being required to submit their self-review. Yet many are in year four or five of Title III or PI. Pick a few schools from various districts in the Central Valley with high numbers of low socio economic students, who are underperforming, and ask for the “CPM self-review.”

I also mentioned to the senator that there are some good, knowledgeable people at CDE; and I believe that we have competent individuals at the federal level as well. The representatives in the department in charge of CPM told me that they do not sanction; but try to assist/enforce as best as possible. I’m told that they do not have enough personnel to which I suggested to the senator maybe bringing back the days of the “Comité.” I asked for a bill that will put some “BITE” on ensuring that districts follow the CPM requirements in the least; the reason for this is due to the current mentality of some districts in the valley that if there is not “BITE” to the requirements, there is no worry on our behalf because “we just don’t have the personnel or resources.” Since the funding for Title I and III comes from the Federal government, the misunderstandings need to be cleared up at that level through proper direction and support so that it can then be expected and implemented at the state and local levels as well.

It is difficult to get certain things accomplished through our state department of education. I’ve wasted time and effort being bounced among the department in charge of assessments and the department in charge of compliance on simple requests such as indicating on the data cd, which students belong to each cohort for Title III AMAO 1, 2 and 3. It is obviously already indicated since CDE uses it for its reporting. I was told that the data cd that CDE gets is different than the one sent to the districts; but I can't understand why a simple and useful (since it will help us desegregate the data) request can't be accomplished. With all of the confusion at the state level, I shrug at the thought of what the various departments at the federal level are going through; and so I agree, “to parcel out core functions of the OELA” sends out the wrong message, and I would like to add that it will also lead to further misunderstandings, weaker implementation, monitoring, assistance and enforcement of an already overburdened administration in charge of Title I. Until certain individuals, at the various levels (local, state and federal), fully understand the difference between Academic English and the development of the English Language for second language learners, we need to maintain the two separated but collaborating. As an example, we listened to the direction of Reading First gurus, experts in ELA but lacking expertise in second language development, and used the EL Handbook from HM during ELD as well, although we insisted that it was not a complete ELD program and, in the least, if this was their direction, that we should focus on language development and not use the ELD period primary "lesson objective" to reinforce the ELA. We flopped in our AMAO 1 and 2 of Title III and the extra ELA reinforcement was not enough to give Reading First the expected gains that were promised. Finally, the US Department of Education needs to ensure that OELA is staffed and funded appropriately and given the necessary support and authority to guide, support and monitor the various state departments of education which in turn, need to do the same for us.

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