Teacher Says Funders’ Report on ELLs Likely to ‘Gather Dust’

By Mary Ann Zehr — February 02, 2011 2 min read
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The report released by Grantmakers for Education yesterday doesn’t articulate a practical approach for improving the education of English-language learners, Larry Ferlazzo, an English teacher of ELLs and other students at a high school in Sacramento, writes in his blog. He said the report seems like an “extended laundry list” of virtually every idea about schooling ELLs that is floating around in education circles.

“Without a focus on a very small handful of ideas, and without some very specific strategies to make them a reality, reports like this just gather dust in the file cabinets (or their ‘virtual’ equivalent nowadays) of foundations throughout the country,” Ferlazzo writes.

He contends the report would have been more on target if the funders had invited teachers to their meeting last summer designed to direct foundations in initiatives to improve the education of ELLs. Foundations need to listen to teachers and community residents to be effective in improving education, Ferlazzo has maintained in several columns or blog posts, such as this piece in the Huffington Post.

Other commenters on my blog post about the funders’ report praised the fact that funders were showing interest in ELLs, but had other criticisms of the report. One said that it didn’t contain fresh information. Another implied the report should have said more about the value of native-language instruction for ELLs.

An opportunity is coming up, by the way, for teachers to voice their views on how to educate ELLs on a national level. The office of English-language acquisition of the U.S. Department of Education and other entities of the federal government are hosting three “national conversations” on the topic, and registration is open for them.

The letter of invitation from Rosalinda B. Barrera, the director of the office of English-language acquisition, clearly says “stakeholders” invited to the meetings include “educators, school administrators, parents, students, advocates, and policymakers.” My interpretation of “educators” is that it includes teachers.

The first meeting is scheduled for Feb. 10 and 11 in Dallas, the second one March 7 and 8 in Los Angeles, and the third one April 11 and 12 in New York City. Each meeting also has a satellite site in another city.

It’s a good thing that Barrera’s office is joined by other offices of the federal government, such as the office of elementary and secondary education and the White House Initiative on Excellent Education for Hispanic Americans, to host the national conversations because her office does not hold the purse strings for most of the federal money now flowing to schools for ELLs. In Washington, money equals clout.

I profiled Barrera in Education Week in November.

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