Washington, D.C. — A new paper from the Center for American Progress outlines some of the ways the U.S. Department of Education is encouraging states to address the needs of English language learner students as they seek relief—in exchange for reforms—from certain No Child Left Behind Act requirements.
The No Child Left Behind law fundamentally changed the expectations and data that schools should have for their English language learner students. The landmark 1974 Lau v. Nichols Supreme Court case concluded that students who speak English as a second language have a right to a “meaningful education.” But No Child Left Behind—a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—was the first law to hold schools and districts accountable for the achievement of their English language learner students.
A decade after No Child Left Behind became law, however, there is still a large achievement gap between English language learner students and their English-proficient peers. More than three times as many English language learner students score below the basic level on eighth-grade national math and reading exams as their white, English-proficient peers.
In September 2011 President Barack Obama announced that his administration would waive certain Elementary and Secondary Education Act requirements in exchange for reforms proposed by states. The Obama administration is targeting several improvements related to English language learners through its process for granting Elementary and Secondary Education Act waivers.
The paper, entitled “Using No Child Left Behind Waivers to Improve English Language Learner Education,” outlines the ways in which the waiver application review process encourages states to address the needs of English language learner students. The report highlights the state of New York, which submitted a very detailed and thoughtful waiver application with respect to meeting the needs of its English language learners.
“States can learn from the strong example set by New York,” writes Theodora Chang, author of the report. “Since the population of English language learner students in the United States is growing so rapidly, states need to be proactive about including English language learner students and their teachers in every aspect of education reform.”
Read the report: Using No Child Left Behind Waivers to Improve English Language Learner Education by Theodora Chang
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