Cristina De León-Menjivar of the Napa Valley Register has written a series about how the Napa Valley Unified School District in California has responded to provisions for English-language learners under the No Child Left Behind Act. “Despite the district’s solid record of success getting newcomers up to speed in English quickly,” she writes, “overall that student population is a drag on the district’s test scores.”
I notice that some of the educators in the Napa Valley school district were adept in slipping into interviews their views about how they’d like to see the federal education law altered. For example, in the April 30 article, “Under Examination,” Barbara Nemko, the county superintendent of schools, is quoted as saying that the federal government should consider “growth” in the progress of English-language learners “instead of setting an arbitrary standard” to judge how well schools are teaching such students.
The journalist notes that the school district is meeting the goal set by the state under Title III of NCLB for its English-language learners to improve one level of proficiency in English each year. That goal is measured by an English-language proficiency test--the California English Language Development Test. But the district isn’t meeting goals set for those students when it comes to adequate yearly progress, or AYP, under Title I of the act.
The goal to improve one level of proficiency in English each year under Title III is an example of considering “growth.” The AYP goals under Title I, by contrast, hold English-learners to the same benchmarks as all other students.
This aspect of the series illustrates a point that a California researcher, Robert Linquanti, made when I interviewed him recently for a story in Education Week. He said that in the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, he’d like to see the goals under Title I for English-language learners structured more like they are under Title III. Mr. Linquanti is the project director and senior research associate for WestEd.
Title III contains provisions in the law specifically for English-language learners while Title I contains provisions for disadvantaged students.
“There’s a lot that Title I can learn from Title III that looks at kids wherever they are on the spectrum,” Mr. Linquanti said.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.