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Talk Around Town About Quality Counts 2009

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I've been promoting Quality Counts 2009, "Portrait of a Population: How English-Language Learners Are Putting Schools to the Test," on this blog any chance I get because I'm so pleased that a whole team of people here at Education Week took up the task of exploring the characteristics and education needs of English-language learners. Usually, it's primarily my job here at the newspaper to report on these students.

I want to make sure readers of this blog know that besides publishing a great deal of information about state policies concerning ELLs in the hard copy of the report, the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center has published a separate online product, "Perspectives on a Population: English-Language Learners in American Schools," that contains a great deal MORE information about state ELL policies.

I'm not able to provide this additional 46-page report for free; it costs $6.95. But I can summarize some of the information that is in it. Among other things, it tells you the school districts and metropolitan areas with the largest ELL populations. (Topping the list is Los Angeles, followed by New York City.) The report spells out which English-proficiency tests the 50 states and the District of Columbia are using. It has some detailed demographic information, such as the socioeconomic characteristics of ELL and non-ELL youths, for each state. The report lists the recommended or required criteria for identifying students as ELLs in each state. And it gives state criteria for ELLs to exit programs. Just what those criteria should be for exiting programs is a really hot topic in a lot of individual states right now.

This is information that I will draw on for future articles about ELLs in Education Week. But I'm thinking that it could also be useful for some of you who are really immersed in this field.

In the meantime, bloggers around town and outside of the Washington, D.C., area have picked up on some of the policy information in the print version of Quality Counts 2009. Eduflack writes today:

Like everything else, effective ELL instruction begins with effective teachers. We should be looking at those states that have standards for ELL teachers, particularly those where teachers must demonstrate competency in those standards [Arizona, Florida, and New York], and use that to model effective ELL teaching.

Flypaper also gave Quality Counts 2009 a careful reading and noted that "ELLs are not the monolithic population they’re sometimes assumed to be. While many do speak Spanish, other ELLs speak over 100 other languages, and two-thirds of ELLs are native-born citizens, not first-generation immigrants."

Joanne Jacobs and Hall Monitor also published highlights of the report, soon after it was released.

Education Week and the EPE Research Center are hosting two more opportunities for discussion of the report and the policy issues it raises at www.edweek.org. One is a Webinar to be held tomorrow, Jan. 13, at 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, and the second opportunity is a chat to be held on Thursday, Jan. 15, at 3 p.m. Register or submit questions here.

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One of my concerns is our failings in the area of identifying ELL students who also have a learning disability. I am a parent of a child who I believe has a learning disability but the special education system excuses her poor response to intervention because she is an ELL student. So, I've checked to see how my state is doing at identifying ELL students with disabilities. It turns out that, in MO, for the year 2007-08, disabilities were identified at a rate of 13.92% for the school aged population on the whole. One would think that the incidence of disabilities should be about the same, as well, in large subgroups such as ELL's. If it is not, methods of identification are not working or discrimination is occurring. For the same year in MO, 2007-08, ELL students were identified as having disabilities at a rate of only 4.95%! Sounds like we, in MO, only know how to diagnose the most obvious educational disabilities in ELL students. That is a huge discrepency in the rate of incidence for disabilities in different populations!

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