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ELLs and the Stimulus Package

Schools and the Stimulus

I'm relying on the good work of my colleagues over at Politics K-12 to understand what parts of the stimulus package may be used to benefit English-language learners.

Michele McNeil's post today explains how school districts may tap into an innovation fund of $650 million that is part of the $5 billion in money from the state stabilization fund that will go to the U.S. Department of Education and Arne Duncan for innovation and incentive grants.

School districts ought to apply to use some of the innovation fund to serve ELLs. But notice that your district must have had to meet adequate yearly progress goals for at least two years in a row. That will put a lot of districts with ELLs out of the running. On average school districts in only one state, Lousiana, met AYP for math for ELLs in the 2005-06 school year (the most recent year for which the federal government has provided an evaluation). No state met AYP for reading for ELLs that same year.

Even the Brownsville Independent School District in Texas, the 2008 winner of the Broad Prize for Urban Education for being the most improved urban school district in the United States, has not made AYP for the last two years in a row.

The same requirement that school districts must have met AYP doesn't apply to the rest of the $5 billion, so perhaps school districts can tap some of that money for two permissible purposes that could really benefit ELLs: improvement of standards and assessments and improvement of data collection. One example of the extent of the problem many states are having in data collection for ELLs is the fact that 18 states didn't report to the federal government the graduation rate for ELLs in the 2005-06 school year, although that's required under NCLB.

I've already mentioned that the package has $13 billion for Title I, the part of the No Child Left Behind Act for disadvantaged students, which includes many ELLs. Three billion of that is for school improvement.

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