Wake County, N.C., Schools Aim to Cap Number of ELLs Per School

By Mary Ann Zehr — December 13, 2007 1 min read
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I may be out of touch, but a Dec. 7 article in The News & Observer is the first news coverage I’ve seen of a plan by a school district to intentionally spread out the number of English-language learners in its schools because of accountability provisions under the No Child Left Behind Act.

The article says that some board members of the Wake County, N.C., school district have argued that it’s necessary to more evenly distribute the number of ELLs in schools so that individual schools are not overburdened with students who are struggling to pass standardized tests.

At a recent board meeting, the board approved a policy intended to create a better balance across schools of children from low-income families and children performing below grade level on state reading tests, as well as ELLs. At one elementary school in Wake County, ELLs make up 47 percent of student enrollment, the article says.

The board discussed a cap of 15 percent for ELLs per school but removed that provision before the policy was adopted so more research could be conducted to determine what would be an appropriate limit, according to Chuck Dulaney, the assistant superintendent for growth and planning for the Wake County district, who answered a few questions for me about the policy in an e-mail message. The approved policy, now in effect, says that every school should have less than 40 percent of its students qualifying for free- and reduced-price lunches. It calls for a balance across schools for ELLs but doesn’t contain a specific limit.

I’m wondering if other school districts have moved ELLs around in schools to lessen the impact of possible sanctions under NCLB or if they have plans to do so.

Is schooling in America entering a new era of busing ELLs?

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