Some Researchers See Little Good in NCLB for ELLs

By Mary Ann Zehr — April 23, 2007 1 min read
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Most presenters at a session about the impact of the No Child Left Behind Act on English-language learners at an American Educational Research Association meeting in Chicago April 9-13 were sharply critical of the federal education law, according to their slide presentations from that meeting that have been posted by the Institute for Language and Education Policy.

For example, in his case study about two Cambodian 5th graders who take the regular math test of Texas after attending U.S. schools for 6 months, Wayne E. Wright, an assistant professor in bicultural-bilingual studies at the University of Texas, San Antonio, writes that “to expect newly-arrived non-English speaking students from third world countries with poor education systems to perform on the same tests at the same level as English-fluent peers exhibits the ‘hard discrimination of unrealistic expectations.’ ” He notes that his characterization is a critique of President Bush’s frequent comment that to say that low-income, minority, or ELL students can’t do well on standardized tests is to show the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”

Kate Menken, a linguistics professor at Queens College of the City University of New York, didn’t even wait to get into the substance of her presentation to say that state and federal accountability provisions have caused some problems for ELLs. The title is: “Language as Liability: Why the Drawbacks of Accountability Outweigh the Benefits for ELLs in New York.”

I keep wondering how much members of Congress or their staff who are likely to write the provisions for ELLs in the reauthorization of NCLB are tuned in to the views of people who they don’t deliberately invite to their meetings or hearings--such as the researchers who gave presentations in Chicago.

Earlier posts: “U.S. Senators Hear Views about ELLs and NCLB” and “What Happened at the Subcommittee Hearing on ELLs?”

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