U.S. Congress Subcommittee Plans to Hold Hearing on ELLs

By Mary Ann Zehr — March 05, 2007 2 min read
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Soon, some educators and members of advocacy groups may get a chance to tell members of the U.S. Congress how they think requirements for English-language learners in the No Child Left Behind Act should--or should not--be changed in the law, which is up for reauthorization this year.

Badar Tareen, the press secretary for U.S. Rep. Dale E. Kildee, a Democrat from Michigan, told me in a phone interview this morning that the House subcommittee on early childhood elementary and secondary education plans to hold a hearing on English-language learners and NCLB this month. The hearing is tentatively set for March 29.

Mr. Tareen said that the people who will testify in the hearing haven’t yet been selected. But it’s my guess that they may include some of those who were invited to attend a Feb. 22 meeting convened by the Democratic staff of the House education and labor committee to talk about reauthorization of NCLB.

I ran into Peter Zamora, the regional counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, recently and he said he had been invited to the Feb. 22 meeting. Along with the Migrant Legal Action Program, MALDEF is the co-chair this year of the Hispanic Education Coalition. It was in his role of representing that coalition that Mr. Zamora was asked by the committee staff to attend that meeting.

It could make a difference if civil rights groups, such as MALDEF and the National Council of La Raza, which have broad constituencies, get the ear of Congress regarding ELLs and NCLB, rather than groups focused only on education, such as the National Association for Bilingual Education or the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, or TESOL.

Both MALDEF and the National Council of La Raza have supported the U.S. Department of Education’s existing regulation for NCLB that English-learners be included in states’ large-scale standardized assessments after they’ve attended U.S. schools for only one year. TESOL’s recommendations for reauthorization of NCLB, by contrast, call for the federal government to leave it up to local school districts to determine when their English-language learners must take their regular state tests in English. It’s hard to know what NABE’s position is these days on NCLB because the organization has kept a low profile while going through some organizational struggles. Most of the posts on NABE’s Web site about education issues haven’t been updated since last summer.

Meanwhile, congressional staff have scheduled a joint House-Senate hearing on NCLB reauthorization for March 13. See This Week in Education for details.

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