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James J. Lyons Returns to Role as Advocate for ELLs


James J. Lyons, a former executive director of the National Association for Bilingual Education, is back in town after an absence of a decade and is speaking out about issues concerning English-language learners. He was the executive director of NABE from 1989-1998.

It turns out that Mr. Lyons has been hired by a number of affiliates of the National Association for Bilingual Education, or NABE, to express their views to federal education officials and members of Congress on issues affecting ELLs. Mr. Lyons' first step on behalf of these state groups was to send a letter last week to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan asking him to "quickly" confer with Solicitor General Elena Kagan and get involved with the long-running Arizona case concerning ELLs that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear this year. The Jan. 23 letter urges the new administration to take the stand in Horne v. Flores that civil rights protections for students, in this case ELLs, supersede the No Child Left Behind Act. Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne is making the opposite argument to the courts.

Secondly, the letter calls for Mr. Duncan to use funding from the stimulus package working its way through Congress to support programs to train teachers to work with ELLs. "Until we improve teaching, we can't improve learning," Mr. Lyons told me today during a phone interview.

Mr. Lyons' official new title is the Washington representative of the Ad-Hoc Coalition on Education for a Multilingual America, a new organization that is made up of NABE affiliates from Arizona, Colorado, California, Illinois, and New Mexico. The national organization of NABE is not involved in the effort, he said.


Welcome back, Jim. You have been sorely missed.

Ana Bishop

I hope it helps. We could use advocacy.

I am encouraged that with Mr. Lyons advocacy in Washington and continued, consistent support of NABE affiliates, we can make important inroads leading to success for students. The area of teacher effectiveness (linked with an accountalibity-based tool of teacher evaluation) will be the proverbial straw that breaks the back of the ill-advised legislation of No Child Left Behind. Thank you, Mr. Lyons!
Reina A. Romero, DLeNM of New Mexico

Jim: I'm glad to see you back. You've always been missed, especially by me. Its always good to have an experienced voice like yours politicking for ELLs students.

Joe Bernal


This is excellent news. If there ever was one single person whose tireless efforts from the 70s through the 90s bring together the leaders of the bilingual education movement and help make "meaningful instruction" a reality during those years, it was you, my friend. It is no coincidence that you come to lead the pack when the Vietnam conflict was ending, and advocacy needed to be defined as the work of many communities rather than speaking out on behalf of one. Now that Iraq is morphing back to Afghanistan, and Iraqui refugees are being resettled quietly throughout the US, it is good to know that we can build newcomer schools for them and work on a true national language policy that would strengthen the fluency and bilingual maintenance of Southeast Asians, Western Africans, Haitians, Eastern Europeans and South Americans.

May be this time, Jim, your dream of a national language policy at OE would be in sync with a cogent and coherent foreign policy at State and a civil rights mentality that would improve the lives of all Americans at HHS, Justice and Homeland Defense.

That would just not be "change". That would be the audacity of hope meetin up with the urgency of now.

Welcome back, Jim.

I think that "Dual language" needs to be inclusive of all language- all European, all Asian and any who requests it. I think that educators need to be accountable- if they want to bash the NCLB, fine- but get off their butts and design a measure that they feel will work.

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