State Officials Speak Up on “Interpretation” for Title III

By Mary Ann Zehr — June 05, 2008 1 min read
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The voices of state education officials are strongly present in the comments that have been submitted to the U.S. Department of Education regarding its proposed “interpretation” of Title III of the No Child Left Behind Act, which was published in the Federal Register on May 2. And many of them don’t like one of the proposed requirements in particular: that states be required to use the same criteria to decide if students have attained proficiency in English as they do to determine when students should leave special programs. Education officials and educators in California raised a bigger outcry than those in any other state regarding that requirement.

The comment period closed on June 2. I reported on some of the criticisms of the proposal in an article, “Proposed ELL Guidelines Too Rigid, Critics Warn,” published yesterday at

I was surprised that more teachers or school district officials didn’t submit comments, given that when I visit schools so many educators complain to me about the impact that the high-stakes testing required by NCLB has on ELLs. The department received 73 comments—23 were from states.

A few educators at the ground level did submit comments complaining that NCLB has brought too much testing for English-learners.

I wonder if comments are scarce from people working in the trenches because it’s the end of the school year. Or maybe they tend to let unions or education organizations speak for them on national issues. The National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers did file comments criticizing various aspects of the interpretation and the law in general.

Joel Packer, the director of education policy and practice for the NEA, wrote: “Funding has failed to keep pace with the rising costs of providing services to ELL students.”

Kristor W. Cowan, the director of the legislative department for the AFT, wrote that “states should have the flexibility to not include ELLs in [adequate yearly progress] calculations using assessments written in English unless they have received three years of instruction in U.S. schools.”

For an overview of the proposed interpretation, see my May 14 article, “Consistent ELL Guides Proposed,” and earlier posts here and here.

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