Contact: Wayne E. Wright (210) 458-2024 (email) Wayne.Wright@UTSA.edu or
Alex Molnar (480) 965-1886 (email) firstname.lastname@example.org
Tempe, Ariz. (Tuesday, February 8, 2005)- By way of devaluing bilingual
education through high-stakes testing and English-only programs, the No
Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 fails to address the needs of language
minority students, according to a policy brief released by the Language
Policy Research Unit of Arizona State University's Education Policy Studies
The brief, "Evolution of Federal Policy and Implications of No Child Left
Behind For Language Minority Students," illustrates how the federal
government had progressively taken steps toward meeting the needs of English
language learners and, in doing so, gave worth to bilingual skills.
In 2001, however, the passing of NCLB into law marked a dramatic shift in
that path. The word, "bilingual," was absent from the act and English
language learners were re-categorized as "limited English proficient," or
Dr. Wayne E. Wright, assistant professor at the University of Texas at San
Antonio and author of the brief, finds that the government's change in
education policy and its use of high-stakes testing brings on the following
* Schools are expected to make adequate yearly progress in their test scores
with regard to all subgroups, including students labeled LEP. When testing
the LEP students, NCLB allows for exceptions and accommodations, but the
number of students whose scores can be excluded is minimal, and acceptable
accommodations are neither defined nor spelled out.
* The goals for LEP programs are simply to mainstream the students as soon
as possible and to teach them the content of the state standardized exam.
The pressure of raising scores discourages instruction focusing on the true
needs of LEP students.
* The majority of LEP students are being forced to take standardized tests
in a language in which they are not yet proficient.
* Funding for LEP students nearly doubled, however, these federal funds are
now spread more thinly, resulting in less dollars per eligible LEP student.
* NCLB no longer makes a distinction between bilingual programs or special
alternative instructional programs. The federal law now only requires that
LEP students be placed in "language instruction education programs." The
use of teaching the student's native language is "optional."
* While LEP students must be tested, states are finding creative ways to
exclude their scores, thus helping many schools avoid being held accountable
for a LEP subgroup. This may create an illusion of success while the real
needs of LEP students are being ignored.
* Bilingual education programs are still allowed under NCLB, but only if
state education leaders deem them as "scientifically based" and are willing
to fund them. Anti-bilingual education measures in some states make it
extremely difficult for schools in those states to offer quality bilingual
Wright concludes: "Many schools are adopting scripted one-size-fits-all
curricular programs (often with federal support) which take up large amounts
of instructional time. The irony here is that while teachers are giving up
what they recognize as good instruction for LEP students in the name of
preparing them for high-stakes tests, many of these students' test scores
will end up being excluded anyway from school AYP designations, using the
minimum group size rule and negotiated exclusions with the U.S. Department
"This is a recipe for leaving LEP students behind."
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