NCLB and the Education of ELLs


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  • According to a recent report published by the Pew Hispanic Center (Fry 2008), Englishlanguage learners and immigrant students and youth have been the fastest growing student subgroup in the United States for the past 10 years and continue to increase their annual enrollment by 10 percent. The same report states that the number of immigrant students and ELLs has increased dramatically from 1 in 10 students in U.S. classrooms in 1990 to 1 in 8 in 2005; it is projected to jump to 1 in 4 students by 2020 as the number of 3–21-year-olds increases from 12.3 million to 17.3 million. Most of the immigrant student and ELL population is Hispanic; 76 percent speak Spanish at home. However, more than 460 languages are represented in classrooms throughout the country(U.S. Department of Education 2008). Most ELLs attend public school and are enrolled inprekindergarten–3rd-grade classrooms. An increasing share (43%) of the 1.8 million first-generation immigrant students enters U.S. schools in middle and high school. Arizona, California, Florida, New York, and Texas educate approximately 70 percent of the country’s ELLs. Other states, such as North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Georgia, have recently experienced a rapid increase (over 200%) in both ELL and immigrant student enrollment. Given these statistics , it is imperative that both educators and policymakers focus on the language development and academic achievement of our nation’s ELLs.
  • Low performance and slow improvement: state tests show that ELLs academic performance is far below that of other students, oftentimes 20 to 30 percentage points lower, and usually shows little improvement across many years. In 2005, 4 percent of ELL eighthgradersachievedproficiency on the reading portion of the National Assessment of EducationalProgress (NAEP) versus 31 percent of alleighthgraderswhowere found tobeproficient. In addition, ELLs are more likelyto drop out of high school andlesslikelytopursuehighereducation. The recentlycreated California senatecommittee on englishlearners has found that 89% of the state’sELLs do notreach English proficiency, 49% do notgraduatefrom high school, 87% do not go to college. These are grim statisticsfrom the state with the largest ELL population in the United States
  • Measurement accuracy: Research conducted by The National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST) has shown that the academic language demands of standardized tests negatively influence accurate measurement of ELL performance. For an ELL, tests measure both achievement and language ability. For instance, CRESST studies have repeatedly shown that ELLs perform substantially lower on language arts tests than they do on mathematics and science tests given the amount of academic language used on language arts tests. These findings suggest that the low language ability of ELL students depresses their performance on most tests, thus influencing the accuracy of the test as a measure of their content knowledge.
  • This sample item, taken from a grade 8 MSA, demonstrates the academic language demands of standardized tests. The student is asked to summarize and paraphrase an excerpt from the story, Deliverance. An english language learner may not fully comprehend the abstract nature of this passage, and thus fail to interpret the literacy message. If the student is unable to comprehend and interpret the text, he or she will certainly struggle to paraphrase it.Correct answer A
  • Instability of the ELL student subgroup: The goal of designating high-performing ELLs as language proficient students causes high achieving ELLs to exit the subgroup. The consequence is downward pressure on ELL test scores, worsened by the addition of new ELLs, who are typically low achievers. In other words, once an ELL becomes fluent English proficient, he or she exits the ELL subgroup. Thus, the ELL subgroup continues to represent beginning or intermediate english language learners, with generally low standardized test scores. Recognizing this specific challenge to ELL improvement, the U.S Department of Education has recently allowed states to include redesignated students in the ELL subgroup for up to 2 years after redesignation. However, many researchers and ELL advocates believe that this only temporarily avoids the redesignation problem, as after two years the redesignated students exit the ELL subgroup, bringing the states back to the same ELL challenges as before.
  • CRESST research notes substantial non-school factorswhich impact an ELL’s academic and linguistic achievement, These factors include an ELL’s background knowledge in reading, math, language arts and science, in addition to his or her social and cultural experiences. Some ELLs are designated as students with interrupted formal education, if they have had at least 2 fewer years of schooling than their peers and function at least 2 years below grade level in reading and math. These students have poor or non-existent education records, poor attendence records and a weak grasp of academic content. These students may also have limited proficiency in their first language, making the acquisition of a second language that much more difficult.according to the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) model, teachers must build a students' background knowledge before teaching content by linking concepts to students' personal, cultural, or academic experience. Because the ELL subgroup comprises a vast array of students, each with their own educational, social, and cultural stories, teachers must approach content and language instruction using a variety of methods.
  • While it is true that a disproportionate number of ELLs are represented in special education, placement rates vary with the size of the ELL population in each state and access to ELL programs. Studies find that current assessments that do not differentiate between disabilities and linguistic differences can lead to misdiagnosis of ELLs. Language and learning disabilities are generally due to factors intrinsic to the learner, such as a neurological impairment or a problem with symbolic processing (Perkins, 2005), whereas second language learning difficulties are typically due to factors extrinsic to the learner, such as the language learning process itself or cross-cultural differences (Damico & Hamayan, 1992). In the case of vocabulary usage, for example, if an ELL frequently forgets a common word that has been taught, it is possible that the visual aid used to represent the concept may have been culturally irrelevant for that student (for example, the Liberty Bell representing the concept of freedom or independence that is specific to American history); hence the visual symbol would not provide any help for that student in learning new vocabulary. For learning-disabled students, the same difficulty — that is, forgetting common words that have been taught — may result from a completely different set of reasons. The student may have oral language comprehension or production difficulties as a consequence of word retrieval problems, or the student may have memory problems. In such cases, the pedagogical needs of the two populations are different: learning-disabled students need support in creating compensations to overcome their problems whereas second language learners need to develop further proficiency in academic language
  • Focuses on educational outcomes and accountability by requiring that all students make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and achieve a score of proficient in English language arts and mathematics by the year 2014
  • During the 2004-05 school year, NCLB required that students be administered high stakes tests in math and reading or language arts at least once in grades 3-5, 6-9, and 10-12In addition, schools are required to publish annual report cards showing a range of information, including student achievement data broken down by subgroup. The Limited English Proficient subgroup is used to monitor ELLs academic and linguistic achievement.
  • The NCLB definition of a limited English proficient student gives states flexibility in defining the students who constitute the LEP subgroup. For example, a state has the flexibility to define narrowly the LEP subgroup as only those students receiving direct, daily LEP services. A state could also define the group more broadly to include both students receiving direct services and students being monitored based on their achievement on academic assessments.Does maryland still use home language surveys to identify ELLs
  • NCLB requires that all ELLs in grades 3-8 take the same state academic content assessments as all other students in Reading/Language Arts, Mathematics, and ScienceThe law requires a One-year testing exemption in Reading,English Language Arts, and Mathematics for ELLs new to the U.S (less than 12 months).States may offer appropriate testing accommodations, such as small group administration of the test, extra time, dictionaries, and simplified instructions.NCLB requires that all ELLs take an annual English Language Proficiency test In addition to the required content exams, ELL students must also take an annual English Language Proficiency test to demonstrate English language development in reading, writing, listening, and speaking every year. States are required to have English Language Proficiency standards in place to guide instruction of language development, however there is a wide variation in defining and assessing proficiency.
  • Many educators agree that NCLB has brought unprecedented attention to ELLs and the LEP subgroup by requiring schools to isolate test-score data. The growing awareness of the challenges such students facehas spurred an increase in professional development, particularly for teachers of general content classes.
  • current Identification and Reclassification Procedures Produce an Unstable ELL Subgroup Population      Current policies and practices for the identification and reclassification of ELLs "undermine both accountability judgments and evaluations of practices and programs." The composition of the ELL subgroup suffers from a "revolving door effect", as more proficient students exit the group and less proficient students enter. Not acknowledging and addressing this fact limits the ability to learn from successful practices as well as to monitor the progress of ELLs with continuing language acquisition needs.II. Faulty Expectations About Language and Academic Outcomes in Accountability Systems      Current Title III accountability provisions for attaining English language proficiency do not require states to take into account "realistic developmental trajectories" based on available empirical data. Furthermore, current Title I provisions set unattainable expectations for academic achievement that are independent of an ELL's level of English language proficiency.Based on currently available assessment data from states, the recommended target-goal time frame to  move students from the lowest levels of language proficiency to the state-defined English proficiency level (i.e., the level at which students are classified as English proficient) is four to five full academic years.Manyeducators and researchers have contended that state content assessments have not been valid and reliable for English-language learners. As it has turned out, not many states have met the law’s AYP goals for ELLs. During the 2007-08 school year, only 11 states met their accountability goals for ELLs, according to an analysis of federal data by the Washington-based American Institutes for Research (Zehr, May 12, 2010). Researchers point out that, because states set their own goals for ELL achievement and have their own definitions for ELLs, it’s not possible to compare ELL performance among states.**   NCLB as "De Facto" Language Policy **      In the book English Learners Left Behind: Standardized Testing as Language Policy, Kate Menken claims that the tests mandated by NCLB, "shape" what content is taught in schools, "how it is taught, by whom it is taught, and in what language(s) it is taught." Essentially, these tests have become "de facto" language policy in schools, calling for contradictory and inadequate practices to meet the educational needs of ELLs.  Menken argues that in the absence of an official language or language policy in the United States, the educational sector must interpret and implement the few inadequate policies, i.e the standardized testing and accountability provisions of NCLB, our federal government has enacted. When standardized testing has extremely high stakes attached to it, including funding for schools, the retention of teachers, and ELL graduation, it can dramatically change school curricula and classroom practices, In fact, standardized testing under NCLB essentially promotes English-only language education policy given that the English-proficiency and academic content tests are usually written in English-only. Thus, the testing policies of NCLB can be viewed as "discriminatory" against ELLs, by penalizing schools with large ELL populations and creating a disincentive for schools to serve these students. IV. Lack of Teachers Properly Trained to Address the Needs of ELLs      ELLs must have opportunities to learn rigorous, relevant, grade-level content in all academic areas, and teachers deserve to be well-prepared to deliver content to their ELL students. Currently, there is no requirement under NCLB that content-area teachers possess the knowledge and skills to teach their content specialties to ELLs. Thus, although many teachers in Title I schools lack relevant preparation to effectively teach this population, NCLB currently does little to address this problem.
  •  Obama administration officials, along with the Department of Education, are moving forward with a program to grant states waivers from key provisions of NCLB, as long as they are willing to "embrace education reform." Officials claim that any relief from NCLB will only go to states that accept the administration's version of reform, referred to as the “Common Core”, which includes using standardized test scores to measure "student growth" for the purposes of evaluating schools and teachers. To get the waivers, states mustimplement college- and career-ready standards for students, set new targets for improving achievement among all students, create evaluation systems for teachers and principals that include standardized test scores as one measure, and find ways to reward top-performing schools and intervene with those at the bottom of the achievement scale. As of November 2011, eleven states, including Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Tennessee, have formally submitted requests for waivers. (39 states and the District of Columbia have expressed interest in the waiver program). Advocates for the Common Core State Standards claim that it would not only benefits all students but would directly influence higher academic achievement of ELLs According to the recommendations detailed in the Obama administration’s Blueprint for Reform, states that adopt college- and career-ready standards should “develop and adopt statewide English language proficiency standards for English Learners, aligned so that they reflect the academic language necessary to master the state’s content standards” (U.S. Department of Education 2010a, 8). This effort would provide the students the linguistic breadth and depth to access academic content knowledge necessary to succeed.While the nation debates the Obama’s administration’s waiver program and the Common core standards, many states are developing innovative programs to accelerate the second language acquisition process.SEI model: Arizona’s most recent English Language Learner (ELL) legislation, starting in the school year 2008-2009, requires all such students be educated through a specific Structured English Immersion (SEI) model: the 4-hour English Language Development (ELD) block. The basic premise behind this particular model is that ELL students should be taught the English language quickly so they can then succeed academically. The data collected show there are some benefits of implementing the 4-hour ELD block of instruction: (1) The 4 hour block give teachers plenty of time to work on students’ English language acquisition, resulting in more ELLs reaching higher English proficiency levelsThe state of Maryland is now a member of the WIDA consortium, along with 28 other states, and has adopted its 2012 edition of the English Language Development Standards. WIDA Consortium member states administer, ACCESS for ELLs (Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State-to-State for English Language Learners) in order to monitor students' progress in acquiring academic English. ACCESSis a secure large-scale English language proficiency assessment given annually to Kindergarten through 12th graders who have been identified as English language learners (ELLs). ACCESS focuses on academic language, including the specific language needed to succeed in reading, mathematics, language arts and science
  • “The goals of No Child Left Behind were the right ones. Standards and accountability — those are the right goals. Closing the achievement gap, that’s a good goal. That’s the right goal. We’ve got to stay focused on those goals. But we’ve got to do it in a way that doesn’t force teachers to teach to the test, or encourage schools to lower their standards to avoid being labeled as failures. That doesn’t help anybody. It certainly doesn’t help our children in the classroom.” President Obama 2012
  • NCLB and the Education of ELLs

    1. 1. NCLB AND THEEDUCATION OF ELLS By: Lauren Martin SEA Spring Forum St. Mary’s College of Maryland
    2. 2. OPENING QUESTIONWhat educational challenges do you thinkthe average ELL faces in the classroom?
    3. 3. What educational challenges do you thinkthe average ELL faces in the classroom?• Historically low ELL performance and very slow improvement• Measurement accuracy• Instability of the ELL student subgroup• Varying background levels• Learning disability vs. linguistic challenges
    4. 4. HISTORICALLY LOW ELL PERFORMANCE AND SLOW IMPROVEMENT• ELLs consistently perform lower than their peers and frequently lower than many other subgroups • Assessment performance • Drop-out rates
    5. 5. MEASUREMENT ACCURACY• The academic language on standardized tests negatively influences ELL performance • Academic language refers to the system of words, conventions and discourse used in school to construct meaning and relate complex ideas and information in both oral and written form.
    6. 6. ACADEMIC LANGUAGE IN ACTIONRead this sentence from paragraph 2 of Deliverance.I turned and forgot about it, pulling upward, kneeing and toeing into the cliff, kicking steps into the shaly rock wherever I could, trying to position both hands and one foot before moving to a new position.Which of these is the best paraphrase for the sentence?A. I focused on moving upward, pressing into the cliff, moving loose rock, placing hands, and one foot before continuing.B. I moved around, punching knees and toes into the wall, forcing loose rock aside before holding on with hands and one foot until I moved to another location.C. I wanted to move upward so I did by pushing my knees and toes into loose rock when I could and putting my hands and one foot on the cliff and lifting my other foot to a safe spot.D. I did not think about the overhang but concentrated on going up by putting my knees and toes into available rock and laying my hands and one foot on the cliff before moving the other foot.
    7. 7. INSTABILITY OF THE ELL SUBGROUP• High-achieving ELLs are redesignated as fluent English proficient and exit the ELL subgroup • Downward pressure on ELL test scores • Department of Education Reform • Re-designated students in ELL subgroup for up to 2 years
    8. 8. VARYING BACKGROUND LEVELS• Factors which are outside of a school’s control • Background knowledge • Social and cultural experiences • Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE)
    9. 9. LEARNING DISABILITY VS. LINGUISTIC CHALLENGES• Disproportionate number of ELLs are represented in special education • Many current assessments do not differentiate between disability and linguistic challenges• Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic factors • Intrinsic: Language and learning disabilities • Extrinsic: Second language learning difficulties
    10. 10. THE NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT (NCLB)• One of the goals behind NCLB was to alleviate some of the challenges surrounding ESL education• NCLB is most recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)• Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)
    11. 11. THE NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT (NCLB)• High Stakes Testing• Annual Report Cards Limited English Proficient (LEP) Subgroup
    12. 12. DISCUSSION QUESTION How would you define “Limited English Proficiency”?
    13. 13. HOW DOES NCLB DEFINE LEP?• NCLB defines “LEP” as: a. Being 3 to 21 years of age b. Enrolled or preparing to enroll in public school c. Either not born in the U.S or speaking a language other than English d. Owing to difficulty in speaking, writing, or understanding English• ELL students comprise the LEP subgroup• Identification of LEP students • Home language survey
    14. 14. NCLB: TESTING ELLS• All ELLs in grades 3-8 take state academic content assessments • One-year testing exemption • Content assessments in the student’s native language • Appropriate testing accommodations• All ELLs take an annual English Language Proficiency test • WIDA: ACCESS for ELLs• LEP subgroup must meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) targets
    15. 15. DISCUSSION QUESTION Based on the brief overview of NCLB and itstesting requirements for ELLs, how has this law helped or hindered ELL education?
    16. 16. NCLB: HELPING ELL EDUCATION• Establishes high expectations for ELLs by setting ambitious AYP target goals• Seeks to reduce the achievement gap between English proficient students and ELLs• Focused national attention on ELL education
    17. 17. NCLB: HINDERING ELL EDUCATION• Unstable ELL Subgroup Population• Faulty Expectations• “De Facto” Language Policy• Lack of Properly Trained Teachers
    18. 18. DISCUSSION QUESTIONHow can U.S policymakers reform NCLB in order to promote better ESL education practices?
    19. 19. THE FUTURE OF NCLB AND ELL EDUCATION• Waiver Program and the “Common Core” • College and career ready standards • Create new targets • Create evaluation systems • Award top-performing schools• Innovative state programs • Arizona: Structured English immersion (SEI) model • English Language Support Division (CA) • WIDA Consortium: ACCESS for ELLs
    20. 20. WRAPPING IT UP• ELLs face a variety of challenges in the classroom• NCLB sought to close the achievement gap among low-performing subgroups • LEP Subgroup• NCLB has encouraged a national dialogue on second language development and academic achievement• Future Reform
    21. 21. REFERENCESAbedi, J. (2004). The No Child Left Behind Act and English Language Learners: Assessment and accountability issues. Educational Researcher, 33(1), 4-14.Boyson, B., & Short, D. (2003). Secondary school newcomer programs in the United States. Research Report No. 12. Santa Cruz,CA, & Washington, DC: Center for Research on Education, Diversity, & Excellence. Department of Education, Public Law print of PL 107-110, the No Child Left Behind act of 2001Menken, K. (2008). English learners left behind: standardized testing as language policy. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters LTD.No child left behind waivers: 11 states seek relief from federal education law. (2011, November 15). The Huffington Post. Retrieved from, D. J., & Fitzsimmons, S. (2007). Double the work: Challenges and solutions to acquiring language and academic literacy for adolescent English language learners. Report to Carnegie Corporation of New York. New York: Alliance for Excellent EducationTeachers College Record, Volume 114 Number 9, 2012, p. 5-6 http://www.tcrecord.orgWorking Group on ELL Policy (25 May 2010). Improving Educational Outcomes for English Language Learners: Recommendations for the Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. p. 1-11
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