What the Executive Summary Doesn’t Say

By Mary Ann Zehr — June 27, 2008 1 min read
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To read the bad news about the academic progress of ELLs in this country, you have to read beyond the executive summary of a two-year evaluation of ELL programs that the U.S. Department of Education sent to Congress yesterday. It’s called “The Biennial Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Title III State Formula Grant Program: School Years 2004-06" and is supposed to be put online next Monday by the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition. (June 30 update: Find the pdf here.) A brief article that I wrote today about the report was just posted at

First the good news: During the 2005-06 school year, 24 states met their targets for having ELLs make progress in English; 28 states met their targets for such students to attain proficiency in the language.

Also, the authors of the report included the following kernel of good news in the executive summary: Of 312,000 students who were formerly ELLs but who are being tracked by states for two years after becoming proficient in the language, 86 percent scored proficient or above in math and 99 percent scored at least proficient in reading during the 2005-06 school year. (I’m wondering, how much digging in the data they had to do to find that positive bit of news and what it really says about the estimated 5 million ELLs who are still in the category.)

Now for the bad news, which you can find on page 31—way past the two-page executive summary. Only one state, and the report doesn’t name it, made adequate yearly progress in math for ELLs in 2005-06. No states made AYP in reading for such students that school year.

The bad news takes the wind out of my sails in anticipating writing any nuanced stories about how schools are trying to make AYP for ELLs. The matter isn’t nuanced at all, I see. Hardly anyone is making AYP for these students.

See my earlier post, “The ELL Report Congress Hasn’t Gotten.”

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