Ed. Department’s Report on ELLs to Congress is a Year Late

By Mary Ann Zehr — April 28, 2011 2 min read
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The U.S. Department of Education is a year and two months past the deadline stated in the No Child Left Behind Act to submit to Congress a two-year evaluation of programs for English-language learners backed with federal funds.

The federal education law says that by Feb. 1 every two years, the Education Department must submit a report on Title III, the section governing funds for ELLs, to Congress.

The report has been drafted and is being circulated among the Education Department staff, said David Thomas, a spokesman for the department, to me in an email. He added that since the last evaluation was published, “we took steps to align [the evaluation’s] publication with the date state data came in and are working this out.”

Other than requiring a report on Title III every two years, the law says the evaluation should report on the effectiveness of programs backed with Title III dollars to improve the academic achievement and English proficiency of ELLs, provide a synthesis of data submitted by states, give an estimate of the number of certified teachers working with ELLs and a projection for the number of certified teachers needed in the next five years, and summarize major research findings pertaining to ELLs.

In 2005, I wrote about the first biennial report to Congress on Title III. Kathleen Leos, who was the assistant deputy secretary in the office of English-language acquisition for the Education Department at the time, told me this week that though the report was released more than a year past deadline, her office had gotten a waiver from Congress to submit it late.

The Education Department wasn’t required to put a report out in 2006 because of the terms of the waiver, according to Leos. She resigned in Nov. 2007 from the post of director of the office of English-language acquisition.

The report released in 2008 incorporated four school years of data.

Already last May, I wrote about the data submitted by states for the same school years that this forthcoming report evaluates. The Washington-based American Institutes for Research summarized the findings in that data in three research briefs with a grant from the Education Department. That organization found that only 11 states had met their accountability goals for English-language learners under the No Child Left Behind Act in the 2007-08 school year.

So the draft report now being circulated among federal education officials may not contain a lot of information that is new to the field.

But I still take it as my responsibility to remind federal education officials that someone is taking notice of their obligation under the law to release information to Congress, and thus the public. When Leos was in the Education Department under the George W. Bush administration, I bugged her frequently about her duty to get that first evaluation out.

So let this post be a record that I’m also bugging education officials under the Barack Obama administration about the public’s interest in an evaluation. And, according to my reading of the law, it’s late.

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