The U.S. Department of Education has made English-language learners the focus of one of the three public meetings it will soon be hosting on how $350 million in Race to the Top funds for assessments should be given out. Holding a meeting to focus on ELLs is the strongest message that the Education Department has sent to the public so far, from my point of view, that ELLs should be the beneficiaries of stimulus funds.
The meeting on how to accurately measure the content knowledge of ELLs is scheduled for Dec. 1 and 2 in Denver.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act itself does not mention English-language learners specifically. A group of ELL experts has been urging school districts and states to include ELLs in their plans for spending stimulus funds.
Diane August, a senior research scientist for the Center for Applied Linguistics, who is a member of that group of ELL experts, said it’s a good sign that one of the assessment meetings is highlighting needs of ELLs.
She said she’d like to see the federal government support efforts to make tests implemented for accountability purposes more useful for guiding teachers in improving instruction of ELLs and other students. August said that while often teachers don’t receive student results from state tests in a timely manner, “even if they did, I don’t think [the results] are geared to helping teachers figure out what to do in the classroom.”
ELLs are subjected to more testing than most groups of students because the federal government requires them to be tested both in their progress in learning English and their academic content knowledge.
“It’s a huge problem that so much time is spent testing that there is not time for instruction,” August added.
I’ve heard some version of that concern from a number of teachers I’ve met across the country. And if some of those teachers can’t make it out to the Mile High City for the meeting on ELL assessments, they still can respond to an invitation by the Education Department to submit comments on assessment issues in writing. Use the following e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.