Advice for Obama’s Administration

By Mary Ann Zehr — December 29, 2008 2 min read
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The education review team for President-elect Barack Obama has forwarded to the transition team names of several people who have been recommended by civil rights or education groups to be appointees in the new administration, according to a Dec. 24 article in Diverse magazine.

Those who have been recommended are Kris Gutierrez, a professor of social research methodology at the University of California at Los Angeles; Elena Izquierdo, an associate professor of teacher education at the University of Texas at El Paso; and Maria Santos, the superintendent for the New York City Department of Education’s office of English-language learners.

Interestingly, all three of these women are experts in the education of English-language learners, though they are not being recommended for education jobs particularly pertaining to that group of students. Ms. Gutierrez, a member of the education working group of the Obama transition team, has conducted research about ELLs and is a member of the U.S. Department of Education’s Reading First Advisory Committee. Ms. Izquierdo is an executive board member of the National Association for Bilingual Education and has been quoted in the Washington Post (here and here) on language issues. She’s also been principal of the Oyster Bilingual School in the District of Columbia, which provides a schoolwide two-way bilingual program in English and Spanish. As head of programs for ELLs in New York City’s public schools, Ms. Santos had paid particular attention to the different educational needs of subgroups of ELLs, including students with interrupted formal schooling and long-term English-language learners. I’ve written about her leadership of programs for ELLs in the Big Apple in Quality Counts 2009, which focuses on ELLs and will be released by Education Week on Jan. 7.

In addition, a number of educators or educational experts have written letters to President-elect Barack Obama with advice on what should be his education priorities. James Crawford, the president of the Institute for Language and Education Policy, and Jeff MacSwan, an associate professor of applied linguistics and education at Arizona State University, have written a letter spelling out how they believe the No Child Left Behind Act should be changed during reauthorization to improve education conditions for ELLs. Among their recommendations are that money that has, to date, been spent on testing under the NCLB Act could be better spent on building schools’ capacity to better serve ELLs.

In general, Mr. Crawford and Mr. MacSwan say, “Far too little is being done to ensure that ELLs are provided an adequate share of school funding, appropriately trained teachers, valid assessments, and research-based programs to promote English acquisition and academic achievement.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.