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Civil Rights Group Backs Language-Learner Provisions in ESEA Rewrite

The National Council of La Raza—the nation's largest Hispanic civil rights organization—is praising the latest version of a bipartisan bill that would overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Education Week's Politics K-12 blog detailed several provisions that could benefit English-language learners, including:

  • Mandating that states report disaggregated data for subgroups of students, including minorities, low-income students, English-language learners, and those with disabilities;
  • Requiring states to include¬†English-proficiency rates for English-learners in their accountability systems; and
  • Providing incentives to states and school districts to implement policies to significantly improve instruction for English-learners, including effective professional development for teachers and parent- and community-engagement practices.

"While NCLR applauds the improvements in the English-learner provisions, more needs to be done to satisfy demands for higher student achievement," Delia Pompa, La Raza's senior vice president of programs, said in a statement. "Policies should ensure that all students have the opportunity to obtain an excellent, equitable education."

A summary of the bill, from Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., also affirms the state's responsibility, under Title III of ESEA, to "establish and implement statewide entrance and exit procedures for English-learner programs, and provides additional information to states and school districts to help meet the needs of long-term English-learners and English-learners with a disability."

The Senate education committee is slated to mark up the bill Tuesday.

In January, La Raza joined a coalition of civil rights groups urging Congress to maintain one of the federal education law's most controversial parts: the requirement that public schools administer annual tests in math and reading.

The coalition, including the League of United Latin American Citizens and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Found, argue that No Child Left Behind's testing requirement has forced states and school districts to concentrate on serving poor and minority students.

"While many gains have been made as a result of the ESEA, including increased graduation rates among minority and low-income students, we still have not achieved educational parity," Pompa said in her statement released this week.

"That is why we applaud this bipartisan effort to reauthorize ESEA and make much-needed improvements to the law."

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