Spellings vs. Crawford on Use of ELL Statistics

By Mary Ann Zehr — February 13, 2007 1 min read
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It’s not surprising that James Crawford, a long-time writer about language policy and a critic of the effects of the No Child Left Behind Act on English-language learners, has taken a close look at the statistics U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings cited in a letter regarding the actions of Virginia education officials.

Ms. Spellings used statistics about English-language learners to make the point that the No Child Left Behind Act is working for ELLs.

Ms. Spellings’ Feb. 4 letter was sent to the Washington Post and addressed the testing showdown between Virginia and the federal government regarding ELLs. In it, Ms. Spellings said that test scores in reading of English-language learners who were 4th graders on the National Assessment of Educational Progress “increased by 20 points from 2000 to 2005, more than three times better than their peers.”

What Ms. Spellings failed to say, Mr. Crawford notes, is that the test scores for ELL 4th graders dropped 7 points just prior to 2000, and that most of the increase in scores for ELLs occurred before the federal education law was implemented.

Mr. Crawford posts his critique on the Web site of the Institute for Language and Education Policy, an organization that he helped to start in May after the National Association for Bilingual Education decided not to renew his contract as executive director. Three board members of NABE resigned over that decision and two of them--Stephen Krashen and Josefina Tinajero--helped to found the new institute. Some well-known researchers who specialize in ELLs, such as Alfredo Artiles and Lily Wong Fillmore, are also on the list of founders. Mr. Crawford is president of the institute and told me in an e-mail message that he wrote the analysis of Ms. Spellings’ use of statistics.

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