Federal

Few States Meeting Goals of NCLB for English-Learners

By Mary Ann Zehr — May 18, 2010 4 min read

Only 11 states met their accountability goals for English-language learners under the No Child Left Behind Act in the 2007-08 school year, concludes a study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education.

That same school year, 59 percent of school districts or district consortia that receive federal money for English-language-acquisition programs achieved all their goals for ELLs.

Those are some of the findings included in three research briefs released this month by the Washington-based American Institutes for Research. The briefs are precursors to a much more comprehensive study evaluating implementation of Title III, the section of the NCLB law that authorizes aid for English-language-acquisition programs, which is being underwritten with an Education Department grant for $2.7 million over three years.

A prior evaluation of Title III implementation by the department found that in the 2005-06 school year, no states met all their goals for such students. That school year, only Louisiana met its goal for adequate yearly progress in math for ELLs. Not one state satisfied its reading goal.

Still, the briefs’ authors and ELL experts say it’s not possible to conclude that the increase over two years from no states to 11 states reaching their goals means that the achievement of such students is improving.

And Education Department officials agreed this month that the research doesn’t provide the kind of information needed to show whether districts and states are increasingly doing a better job of educating English-learners.

But the quality of states’ data on ELLs is improving, they said.

Self-Imposed Objectives

The AIR researchers found that Pennsylvania was the only state out of 50, plus the District of Columbia, that hadn’t reported sufficient data for the 2007-08 school year to the federal government to determine if the state had met its goals for ELLs.

It can’t yet be determined whether ELLs are doing better academically on average based on data collected for the federal law because most states don’t keep longitudinal data, and the category for ELLs changes as students reclassified as fluent in English move out of that category, said Jennifer O’Day, a managing research scientist for the AIR.

In addition, the research briefs point out, great variability exists between states, and even within some states, regarding the definition of ELLs and whether English-proficiency or academic-proficiency goals are high or low.

James Taylor, the project director for the briefs as well as the larger national evaluation of Title III, said, “It’s impossible to know whether these [11] states performed better than any other states in meeting the needs of ELL students.”

All that can be said, he explained, is that those states met the objectives they had set for themselves. Those states are: Alabama, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Nevada, New Jersey, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.They satisfied the objectives for progress in English, attainment of fluency in English, and demonstration of proficiency on state tests in reading and math.

Mr. Taylor noted that it’s not clear if Texas technically met its goal for progress in English because the state changed tests to measure that goal between the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school years. The other 10 states clearly met all three goals, he said.

Kenji Hakuta, an education professor at Stanford University who specializes in ELLs, said the fact that 11 states met their objectives shows that “it’s not an altogether unrealistic goal to have standards that combine academic content and language” for ELLs as the federal law requires states to do.

One aspect of accountability-data collection that needs to be fixed in the reauthorization of the law, Mr. Hakuta said, is that states need to do a better job of tracking former ELLs’ progress.

Accountability Changes

Kathleen Leos, the director of the Education Department’s office of English-language acquisition during President George W. Bush’s administration, said the research briefs tell her that some states are seriously lacking in fulfilling the requirements of the law for ELLs.

“I don’t get the sense there is a comprehensive accountability system in place within states, much less among states,” she said.

Ms. Leos said she’s concerned about information in the report that shows states have continually changed the cutoff scores they use to determine language or academic-content proficiency, the definitions of cohorts of students, and other key factors in their accountability systems. “If the system is flexible and moving, there is really no way to see if ELLs are achieving or not,” she said.

She contends that the NCLB law is clear about what states need to do, but she questioned whether federal officials are properly overseeing implementation of the law. The Bush administration, she said, was “soft in the beginning to give people time to understand what the legislation said and what it meant.”

But then in 2006 and 2007, she said, the Education Department sent letters to 22 states saying they were receiving federal funds on the condition that they address certain issues regarding ELLs.

Education Department officials said they haven’t been soft at all on states. They said they have been reviewing whether states are in compliance with the federal “interpretation” for Title III put out in 2008 and are sending them letters when they are not, telling them to fix any problems.

A version of this article appeared in the May 19, 2010 edition of Education Week as Few States Meeting Goals of NCLB for English-Learners

Events

Jobs The EdWeek Top School Jobs Virtual Career Fair
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Engaging Young Students to Accelerate Math Learning
Join learning scientists and inspiring district leaders, for a timely panel discussion addressing a school district’s approach to doubling and tripling Math gains during Covid. What started as a goal to address learning gaps in
Content provided by Age of Learning & Digital Promise, Harlingen CISD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How to Power Your Curriculum With Digital Books
Register for this can’t miss session looking at best practices for utilizing digital books to support their curriculum.
Content provided by OverDrive

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Opinion Education Outlets Owe Readers More Than the Narratives They Want to Hear
It's vital that serious news organizations challenge runaway narratives and help readers avoid going down ideological rabbit holes.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Federal As GOP Leaves K-12 Out of Its Infrastructure Plan, Advocates Look For Alternatives
The GOP is proposing $1 trillion in federal dollars for the nation's infrastructure, but school buildings aren't part of their proposal.
6 min read
A trash can and pink kiddie pool are used to collect water that leaks from the roof into the media center at Green County High School in Snow Hill, N.C..
A trash can and pink kiddie pool are used to collect water that leaks from the roof into the media center at Green County High School in Snow Hill, N.C.
Alex Boerner for Education Week
Federal Biden Pick for Education Civil Rights Office Has History With Racial Equity, LGBTQ Issues
Biden selected Catherine Lhamon to lead the Education Department's civil rights work, a role she also held in the Obama administration.
2 min read
Flags decorate a space outside the office of the Education Secretary at the Education Department in Washington on Aug. 9, 2017.
Flags decorate a space outside the office of the Education Secretary at the Education Department in Washington on Aug. 9, 2017.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Federal Lawmakers Press CDC About Teachers' Union Influence on School Reopening Guidance
Republican senators asked CDC Director Rochelle Walensky about reports a teachers' union had input on guidance for schools on COVID-19.
3 min read
Dr. Rochelle Walensky speaks during an event in Wilmington, Del., to announce President-elect Joe Biden's health care team on Dec. 8, 2020.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, CDC director, speaks during an event in Wilmington, Del., to announce then-President-elect Joe Biden's health care team on Dec. 8, 2020.
Susan Walsh/AP