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Ed. Dept. Seeks Feedback on Supporting English-Learners

The U.S. Department of Education is looking for guidance on how it can provide better technical support and services to local educators and state education officials responsible for English-language learners.

That request was published in today's Federal Register. Respondents have until Sept. 25 to provide their feedback.

The Education Department seems to want to improve its services to the ELL community on two fronts: Title III technical assistance to state and local education agencies and the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition, or NCELA.

This query comes at an interesting time. As I reported late last year, there have been widespread concerns that the growing population of ELLs and their distinctive needs have not been getting the attention they need from the Education Department.

A major piece of that concern has been the state of the clearinghouse, which has been in a sort of limbo for more than a year. That's because the department declined to re-up the NCELA contract long held by George Washington University, opening a new competition for interested bidders. The contracting process has been a rocky one that has been protested several times by one bidder. The department has had to issue contract extensions to GW several times to keep NCELA operating.

In its query, the department lists a series of specific questions for people to answer. One example: When you seek information or technical assistance on a topic, do you consult NCELA? Why or why not?

When I reported on this issue late last year, the prevailing sentiment from many in the ELL field, whether they are state Title III directors, researchers, or advocates, was that NCELA was not the go-to source for the latest, most relevant information on English-learners.

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