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Groups Welcome New Federal ELL Official, Critique Policies

Two organizations concerned with the education of English-language learners have written letters welcoming the U.S. Department of Education's new director of the office of English-language acquisition and critiquing current federal policies for ELLs.

Last month, the Education Department announced that Rosalinda B. Barrera has been appointed as the director of the office that has traditionally been in charge of policy for English-language learners. She is now the dean of the college of education at Texas State University—San Marcos. As I wrote in my blog post about her appointment, it's not clear how much power to form ELL policy Barrera will have in her new position, given that the administration of federal ELL initiatives was reorganized toward the end of former president George W. Bush's last term.

The Institute for Language and Education Policy sent a letter July 1 to Barrera saying that its members have been encouraged by President Obama's public statements acknowledging the need to strengthen schooling for ELLs and recognizing the value of multilingualism. But the institute's members are concerned about how some of the policies of the federal Race to the Top competition may affect ELLs, the letter says. The letter characterizes that competition as promoting "high-stakes testing, draconian penalties for so-called failing schools, pay systems for teachers based on standardized test scores, and an aggressive expansion of charter schools."

In another letter sent this month, the National Council of State Title III Directors, whose members are state officials who administer the section of the No Child Left Behind Act that authorizes funding for English-language-acquisition programs, asks Barrera to provide "clear, focused guidance" to state agencies on how to implement Title III. The letter also asks for the Education Department to reverse the reorganization that happened in 2008 with initiatives for ELLs and move the federal officials who enforce Title III from the Education Department's office of elementary and secondary education back to the office of English-language acquisition.

Readers, do you have any words of wisdom for Barrera that you'd like to add?

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