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English-Language Learner Clearinghouse To Be Revamped, Ed. Dept. Says

In the long and gripping saga of the National Clearinghouse for English-Language Acquisition, we may finally have an ending. And it's the same one we saw a year ago.

The U.S. Department of Education has chosen Leed Management Consulting, a small Silver Spring, Md., company, to become the new manager of its $2 million contract for the clearinghouse better known as NCELA. Leed was the Education Department's first choice a year ago. But the contract was withdrawn after formal protests with the federal Small Business Administration and the Government Accountability Office prompted the department to take "corrective action" and review the procurement process that led up to the award being issued to Leed.

So after reconvening a review panel and sizing up the original six proposals again, department officials said that Leed, for the second time, had the strongest proposal. The Ed. Dept, however, would not divulge to me the strengths of said proposal. They told me this morning I'd have to submit that question in writing.

NCELA was created by Congress more than 40 years ago to be the go-to source of information for educators on research, instructional practices, and data on English-language learners. Researchers and consultants in the education school at George Washington University have managed NCELA for years, but the clearinghouse in recent years has lost some of its clout as a critical resource for the ELL field.

Whether or not a new contractor to manage NCELA will change that is a very big question. But department officials said they want a revamped NCELA to improve both the quality and quantity of its resources, including technical assistance for the ELL field. 

The announcement of the new contract wasn't much of an announcement at all. Last week, in a blog post published on the Education Department's website, Assistant Deputy Secretary Libia Gil mentioned the new contract at the end of her message. Gil is the recently appointed director of the department's Office of English-Language Acquisition, or OELA, which is responsible for NCELA.

Here is what Gil wrote: 

"I'm also pleased to announce that OELA recently awarded a new contract for the National Clearinghouse for English-Language Acquisition (NCELA).  Under the terms of the new contract, NCELA will be given a fresh, newly designed website that will be more interactive and will include an upgraded and updated resource library. The new clearinghouse will collect, analyze, synthesize, and disseminate information about the latest research and best practices for educating English learners." 

As of now, the old NCELA website hosted by GW is defunct. Department officials said the website—which is being transferred to the ed.gov domain—should be back up and running by the end of this week. At least right away, folks can expect the site to look and function as it did in the last few years. Department officials said that over time the website will be redesigned to be more pleasing to the eye and to make it easier to find resources.

For more on the twists and turns of the NCELA contracting process, you can dig into the Learning the Language vault here and here.

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