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ELL Services Under Federal Review in 11 Districts

The Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education has opened 11 "compliance reviews" in school districts around the country over the past 21 months to examine whether English-language learners are being adequately served under federal law.

Of course, those 11 reviews don't represent the totality of ELL-related probes by OCR, but they do make up the docket of proactive investigations that the civil rights team decided to launch themselves. In other words, these reviews don't stem from a complaint filed by a parent, student, or a civil rights advocacy group.

I got this number from Russlynn H. Ali, the assistant secretary for civil rights in the Education Department, whom I interviewed at length last week for a broader story on the work of OCR since the start of the Obama administration. (That piece will be posted soon on edweek.org). The 11 compliance reviews focused on ELLs make up about 15 percent of the total number of such reviews that the Ali-headed OCR has launched.

As is its usual practice, the Education Department didn't reveal the specific locations of the reviews that have not yet wrapped up. Among this batch of 11 reviews, the two that have been made public are ones that have been resolved in Los Angeles and in Boston.

I did find out some of the states where the reviews are under way and they include: Arkansas, Oregon, Washington, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin, Ohio and Nevada.

If any readers are aware of which school districts are the focus in the compliance reviews, I'd be intrigued to hear, either in the comments section or in an email. While this OCR team follows its predecessors in keeping the names of school districts, states and universities that it is investigating close to the vest, it has broken from the past in being more upfront when resolutions are reached.

I'd also like to hear where OCR is conducting ELL-related probes that started with a complaint. I know of a few, such as a new one looking at ELL services in charter schools in Massachusetts.

Ms. Ali said her office's examinations of ELL services in school districts are going deeper than in previous years by not just focusing on whether a program exists, but whether it's a quality program that fits in with a school system's overall goals of preparing all students for college and career-readiness.

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