Monday, October 02, 2006

Continuation of earlier posts regarding NCLR's position with respect to English language learners (ELLs). -Angela
Raul Gonzalez
Legislative Director
National Council of La Raza
Washington, DC

Dear Raul,

We are disappointed by your answer to our Sept. 20 message -- that, in your view, "an open conversation" among advocates for English language learners about No Child Left Behind would not be "productive" at this time. We are also surprised. You recently wrote that the National Council of La Raza would be "very open" to discussing its views on this critical subject. Indeed, it was in response to your implicit invitation that we elaborated a number of pressing concerns that educators and researchers have expressed about NCLB.

Again we invite you to engage in an e-mail exchange on this subject, in which a broad range of teachers, administrators, academic experts, and others concerned with the education of ELLs can participate. We believe that an open conversation would be more useful than the closed session of "Latino organizations" that you propose. In our view, it is critical to include those who are intimately familiar with the impact of NCLB in discussions on how the law should be reauthorized. We have no doubt that, if professionals who serve ELL students had been part of legislative deliberations back in 2001, the result would have been a far more workable accountability system. As Congress prepares to reauthorize NCLB in the coming months, advocates for ELLs need to engage in frank discussions about how to reform this law. We believed -- and continue to believe -- that such a dialogue would be productive.

You have also proposed that any discussion should consider ELL issues broadly rather than focus on specific provisions of No Child Left Behind. As you put it, "We should feel free to think outside the NCLB box." We believe this approach would be a mistake. Whether we like it or not, NCLB is the "box" that ELLs and their teachers find themselves in today. It dominates and, indeed, constrains what goes on in public schools like no other federal statute to date. As detailed in our previous message, NCLB is having numerous adverse effects on the children we serve. Unfortunately, certain policymakers and advocacy organizations -- including, we are sorry to say, the National Council of La Raza -- seem to disregard these concerns in their eagerness to promote a Stay the Course position on NCLB.

In our previous message, we posed a number of questions that we still hope will be answered. Here are a few more:
If the objective is to ensure that No Child Left Behind truly serves the needs of ELLs, what steps has your organization taken to investigate its effects on these students thus far?
Have you considered reports by ELL educators and researchers about NCLB, including those who do not share your position?
Do you have any basis to disagree with the list of negative consequences we have cited?
Why has the National Council of La Raza dropped its advocacy for bilingual education -- which is mentioned nowhere in your publications, including those on ELLs and NCLB?
Again, we would welcome a detailed response. In our view, all ELL advocates should try hard to achieve a unified position on NCLB so we don't end up working at cross purposes during the reauthorization process. For this to happen, however, we need to talk to each other -- not in carefully controlled private meetings, but in an inclusive discussion that's open to all who are working to promote equal educational opportunities for ELLs.


James Crawford, Silver Spring, MD
Salvador Gabaldón, Tucson Unified School District
Stephen Krashen, University of Southern California
Kate Menken, Queens College, City University of New York

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