NCLB and ESL 1 The Positive and Negative Effects of NCLB on ESL students Megan Kaminski History, Philosophy, and Trends NCLB and ESL 2 According to Paulo Freire (1999), humans are not prescriptions of life; they are the actions and reflections of life. Life cannot be controlled with prescribed established formulas. So members, of life will succeed only when they are able to collaboratively consider and use individuals’ ideas, skills, talents, and expertise to face life’s countless challenges. (Forrest, 2004) No Child Left Behind is a current education law that focuses on the advancement of intellect by 2014. NCLB, which was established in 2001, requires that all children, including English-language learners, achieve high standards and become proficient in English language arts and mathematics by the established year. Through these mandates, NCLB establishes high expectations for all students and seeks to reduce the achievement gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students. This law has brought positives and negatives, a majority of which we will look at during the course of this paper, as well as recommendations to approve on these expectations. Looking directly at NCLB, the law is stating to ESL students: Ten months in the American education and you are ready to be tested like all other students. (Lewis, 2004) Data from the United States Department of Education show that the number of students with "limited English skills" in U.S. schools has doubled in the last decade, with the current count at 5 million. (Hawkins, 2004) With an increasing number of Ells, educators find themselves plagued with the issue of finding effective programs that focus on quality rather than quantity. Two major components that are present through most educational issues with ELLs include historically low ELL performance and very slow improvement. State tests show that ELL students’ academic performance is far below that of other students, oftentimes 20 to 30 percent lower. Why ELL’s educational performances are significantly lower than non-ESL students? Many different educators and others affiliated NCLB and ESL 3 with the education field have pointed out different issues that could potentially be carrying this problem. These ideas are summed up by Jamal Abedi, stating that measurement accuracy, Instability of the ELL student subgroup, and factors outside of a school’s control are the major reasons that ELLs are falling behind. Let’s begin by looking at some of the positives that No Child Left Behind has brought. First and foremost NCLB promotes reading and literacy skills and recognizes that ELL’s need a different types of programs. In the past many ELL’s weren’t given particular attention and kind of pushed to the side. Through NCLB, ELL’s are given special attention to meet the law’s standards. Second, NCLB allocates extra funds to support program development aimed at effectively educating ELL’s. Financially more money is going into ESL programs to promote English literacy. Thirdly, NCLB allows parental choice concerning their children’s education. Parents are given information about their children’s needs and the overall performance of the schools that their children are attending. Finally, the parents are given the opportunities to make choices related to the education of their children are attending. (Forrest, 2004) Simply put if a parent is dissatisfied with their child’s progress or lack of progress, he or she can simply remove their child from a particular school and choose another establishment. As stated before there are positives to NCLB, but with these positives come negatives. First we must look at the programs being established. NCLB provides for the implementation of research-based programs to help ELLs’ meet high academic standards, any mention of biliteracy, bicultural, and bilingual programs is excluded. This is essentially stating that student’s native language will not be recognized and full inclusion will take place. Full inclusion means that ELLs are immersed in an all English education. NCLB and ESL 4 Quoting NCLB “will focus support on enabling all limited English proficient students to learn English as quickly and effectively as possible.” The act discourages the development of first language literacy as a means of transferring content and literacy skills into a second language. (Forrest, 2004) As it was mentioned before parents are allowed to move their children to other schools, but it fails to recognize that this doesn’t necessarily improve problems. Parents should be encouraged and allowed to play a larger role in curriculum and program development, especially in the restructuring of under- performing schools. (Forrest, 2004) Many conflicting ideas are brought from NCLB, but what needs to be focused upon is how to use this law and find potential ways to fix these gaps. Many recommendations have been mentioned throughout the education world. James Crawford executive director of the National Association for Bilingual education has a few ideas of his own. He feels that assessments on ESL students should not to be used for high- stakes decisions until they have been proven valid/ reliable and backed by considerably more federally funded research on ELL assessment. Secondly he states that Adequate Yearly Progress for ELLs not be calculated as subgroup. Thirdly, that ELL’s achievement should be measured on multiple indicators including grades, graduation, dropout rates, and alternate assessment forms. Fourthly, accountability should focus on building schools’ capacities to serve ELL’s, not on stigmatizing labels or punitive sanctions. Fifthly, schools should be accountable to all stakeholders, including families who need help accessing schools and information because of language differences. (Abedi, 2004) Crawford sums up most of the major problems that are coming from this law onto ELLS. NCLB and ESL 5 Crawford’s points are brought into more depth when we look at ideas from Anne Lewis and Jamal Abedi. Lewis outlines issues of accountability and states that it should cover opportunity-to-learn conditions, such as well-designed instructions for ELLs, sufficient funding, qualified teachers, appropriate assessments and placement, adequate materials, and evaluations of effectiveness. (Lewis, 2005) Abedi goes into a greater detail by focusing on key issues and ways to incorporate recommendations into the classroom. Firstly, educators need to focus on reading. CRESST research confirms that ESL students, who are better readers, as measured on separate reading tests, perform at higher levels. Secondly, educators should closely track ELL performance. Ideally this should be done using multiple measures, in order to identify patterns of improvement or lack of improvement. Thirdly, modify languages on the test. Modifying the language increases ELL performance by 10 to 20 percent. Fourthly, adequate yearly progress. Allowing states to include the test scores of redesignated ELL students for two years symbolizes flexibility in the requirements. Fourthly, encourage accommodations, but evaluate their validity. Don’t just set accommodations to set accommodations. Make sure that the accommodations that are set up are reliable and valid for each particular student. Lastly, meet an “existence proof.” This idea from Robert Linn focuses on the idea of a goal being successful; one school should have already attained it. To date, we have yet to see a school with a sizable ELL population that meets the 2014 NCLB requirements. (Abedi, 2004) The U.S. Supreme Court, in Lau v. Nichols, ruled that school districts had an obligation to provide limited English proficient students with an appropriate and accessible education. (“Bilingual ed. 30 years”, 2004) Thirty years after the Supreme NCLB and ESL 6 Court ruled that school districts must provide an appropriate and accessible education to limited English proficient students; the fight to provide resources to 4.6 million students and their teachers continues. (“Bilingual ed. 30 years”, 2004) NCLB has begun to set these standards, but they failed to set up programs that are effective for ESL students. There has been a critical lack, in SLA research literature, of studies looking at just what it is that occurs with ELLs in their schooling, and or ways to theorize about socialization into the language and literacy practices of school (Hawkins, in press a). This theorizing must account not only for socialization into the language practices of the classroom, but also into the social practices, as language learning is intricately bound up with social identities that learners acquire in new social contexts (Norton, 1995, 2000), and new language, practices, and identities are acquired through apprenticeships to new discourse communities (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Rogoff, 1994; Vygotsky, 1978). (Hawkins, 2004) In Fairfax, which has a large immigrant population and is the region's largest school system, some officials are considering a more provocative step. School Board member Phillip A. Niedzielski-Eichner (Providence) said he will propose at Thursday's board meeting that the county stick with the old test for limited-English students. If approved, that move could lead many of the county's schools to fail to meet federal standards. "As Fairfax, we should be a leader," Niedzielski-Eichner said. "When it's potentially harmful to children, we have to make a stand. (Hawkins, 2004) We'd essentially be dooming a child to fail because he doesn't have language skills yet." Similar debates are unfolding across the country as educators search for the best way to determine whether children learning English as a second language are making the grade under the federal law. When federal officials rejected Virginia's test, they also found problems with the way students NCLB and ESL 7 with limited English are tested in 17 other states. Such problems were not found in Maryland or the District. For example, New York schools also were told a test they had been using for many recent immigrant children did not pass federal muster, a decision that has sparked an outcry from educators there. (“Va. Teachers”, 2005) "Let's at least be fair," said Frank Auriemma, superintendent of New York's Pearl River School District. "Let's imagine that at 11 years old I went to Moscow and . . . a year later I had to take an assessment in Russian. How fair would that be?" (“Va. Teachers”, 2005) The federal law exempts students who have been in a U.S. school for less than a year from taking the reading tests. Chad Colby, a spokesman for the U.S. Education Department, said the tests are crucial to help pinpoint academic problem areas. He said children with limited English proficiency may be allowed special accommodations, including the use of a bilingual dictionary or more time to take the test. But he said the federal government's goals are the same for all students whether they have limited English or not. (Glod, Mary- Va. Teacher) While these two constructs come out of slightly different fields and traditions, I use them together to present a view of classrooms as environments that promote "scaffold interaction," where "communities of learners" engage in cultural practices, with participants taking on various and different ("asymmetrical") roles over time (Rogoff, 1994). In "communities of learners" (Rogoff, 1990, 1994) the primary focus is on the notion of learning-as/through-social-interaction, where knowledge is not a commodity in the head of an individual learner, but instead lies between people; that is, it is an ongoing process of co-constructing meanings and understandings through interaction (Hawkins, 2004) During the past 10 years of conducting research on English language programs and NCLB and ESL 8 school effectiveness, we have discovered the key to the successful future of U.S. education: meaningful, grade-level, and accelerated instruction in two languages--English and another language spoken in the school community--throughout the school years. In many states--especially in Texas, New Mexico, New York, California, Illinois, and the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area--active dual-language programs are providing win-win advantages for all students. English learners have an opportunity to make faster- than-average progress on grade-level instruction that is not watered down. Native English speakers who are already on grade level can exceed the achievement of their monolingual educated peers. And through the cognitive stimulus of schooling in two languages, which leads to enhanced creativity and analytical thinking, native English speakers who are lagging behind academically receive the accelerated instruction necessary to close the achievement gap. All student groups in dual-language classes benefit from meaningful, challenging, and accelerated--not remedial--instruction (Baker, 2001). (Collier, 2003) Two-way dual-language programs educate English learners and native English speakers together, combining the instructional advantages of both types of one-way program. Effective two-way dual-language programs provide; A minimum of six years of bilingual instruction, a focus on the core academic curriculum rather than a watered- down version, high-quality language arts instruction in both languages, integrated into thematic units, separation of the two languages for instruction (no translation and no repeated lessons in the other language), use of the non-English language for at least 50 percent of the instructional time and as much as 90 percent in the early grades, an additive (that is, adding a new language at no cost to students' first language) bilingual environment that has full support of school administrators, teachers, and parents, NCLB and ESL 9 promotion of positive interdependence among peers and between teachers and students, high-quality instructional personnel, proficient in the language of instruction, and active parent-school partnerships (Howard & Christian, 2002; Lindholm-Leary, 2001; Thomas & Collier, 2002). This approach allows English learners to help native English speakers learn through a second language, while native English speakers help English learners acquire the curriculum through English. (Collier, 2003) This may be one of the most effective ways to advance English language learners, however there has been a steady decrease of bilingual importance in education. The United States never has had an explicitly "official" language (Crawford, 1995). Yet through its legal discourse and its new funding regulations, No Child Left Behind is moving the U.S. swiftly in the direction of English monolingualism. NCLB strips away many of the gains towards bilingualism-however small-which were won through civil rights struggles in the 1960s and were institutionalized in the 1968 Title VII Bilingual Education Act. In its 30+ year history, Title VII funded many thousands of bilingual teachers and teacher educators across the U.S., enabling them to earn certification and advanced degrees, so that they could best serve English language learners. Now these opportunities are gone, and these are no small losses. (Katz, 2004) Nearly five years after enactment of NCLB, local school districts across the nation continue to struggle to comply with the language of the law at a time when the unintended consequences of the law are far more complex than had been anticipated by the sponsors of the legislation. Additionally, many of the federal and state lawmakers have become increasingly aware that successful attainment of the desired national goals is very much dependent upon the capacity of the state departments of education and the NCLB and ESL 10 local school districts to successfully address the expanded federal requirements. (“Q & A: The NSBA”, 2007) The NSBA believes changes are needed now because the number of schools and school districts identified as in need of improvement continually increase. And if we continue to see schools face challenges, the American people will begin to loose faith in public education. We cannot afford for that to happen. American citizens may start to think that we (as a nation and a society) don't need to invest in public education. This type of attitude will lead to increasing poverty in inner city and rural school districts. We believe that real substantive actions are needed to actually improve the quality of education. (“Q & A: The NSBA”, 2007) Throughout this paper we have seen some of the impact that NCLB has brought to ESL educators and students. Where do we go from here? Although many different perspectives are present throughout the U.S. and the world, it is important to consider what will be the most beneficial and effective way to teach our students. As of now there are specific guidelines that need to be met, but the way we meet these goals will ultimately be determined by each individual educator. To be literate is not a static state of being but a politically charged process in which we consciously and unconsciously attempt to position others to our ways of thinking in an attempt to gain support for what we believe works. In the words of Shannon (2002), "We raise our consciousness about the world by putting what we know, or think we know, in public view for multiple audiences. These acts of making our literacy public afford us opportunities to negotiate the names assigned to things, ideas, and values in the world; we become vulnerable through public literacy" (p. 422). It is within the context of this vulnerability that we challenge our own and others' traditional rhetoric, such as the dictum "equal is same," NCLB and ESL 11 because we know where we come from impacts where we will go and how we will get there; therefore, assuming that everyone began at point A, when in fact many of us jumped off from point B, C, or D only serves to perpetuate the divide we are attempting to eradicate (Edelsky, 1999; Nieto, 1992). And this is where we, as agents of change, sit in the hot seat amidst politicians who find our calls unsettling. (Suskind, 2007) NCLB does nothing to address the quality of education; it does not change how we go about the business of educating our children. Instead, it promotes a test-and-measure mentality that serves only to create winners and losers. (Johnson, 2006) NCLB and ESL 12 Work Cited Abedi, J. (2004, January). The No Child Left Behind Act and English Language Learners: Assessment and Accountability. 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