Friday was Peter Zamora’s last day as the Washington regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Zamora sent me a brief e-mail saying he’s accepted a job as the senior education counsel for U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, a Democrat from New Mexico.
I mention Zamora’s job change on this blog because he has been one of the most prominent voices among nonprofit advocacy organizations speaking about English-language learners at various education meetings in the nation’s capital. On behalf of MALDEF, he has supported the No Child Left Behind law’s current requirements (and U.S. Department of Education regulations) for all ELLs to be included in regular state academic tests. He supported the federal government in requiring Virginia to stop using its English-language-proficiency test in place of the state’s regular reading test for some ELLs. He’s also a supporter of bilingual education and advocated language in the draft of the reauthorization of NCLB by a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives that would have required states to create tests in students’ native languages. I wrote a profile of Zamora in 2007 for Education Week.
Not everyone in the nonprofit education community agrees with MALDEF’s or Zamora’s positions. The National Association for Elementary School Principals, for example, has said that states shouldn’t have to give regular tests to ELLs until they are proficient in English. The Council of Chief State School Officers has argued that “multiple measures” should be used for including ELLs in state accountability systems for the first three years they are in the United States.
It will be interesting to see how much Zamora gets involved in ELL issues in his new job. Sen. Bingaman is a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, which oversees federal education programs.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.