District Readiness to Implement Standards-Based Reform for English Language Learners a Decade After No Child Left Behind Act

WCER Working Paper No. 2012-4

Naomi Lee

April 2012, 11 pp.

ABSTRACT: The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 formally endorsed standards-based educational reform for English Language Learners (ELLs) by requiring states to: 1) adopt English Language Proficiency (ELP) standards, and 2) report annual progress and attainment of both English proficiency and academic achievement by ELLs. The present paper reports results from a 16-state survey of districts mostly with relatively small ELL populations (fewer than 500 ELLs) on their engagement with standards-based reform for ELLs. The survey revealed that few district-level ELL staff have formal preparation in educating ELLs or using ELP standards. At the school-level, a wide disparity exists between English as a Second Language (ESL)/Bilingual teachers and general education teachers in terms of their engagement with ELP standards and ELP assessment data. General education teachers do not appear to be prepared to implement standards-based reform for ELLs. The present study adds to the literature by highlighting the situation of districts with fewer than 500 ELLs, which are understudied and face unique constraints in serving ELLs. Such districts likely need additional funds to secure a highly qualified, ELL-focused district staff, staff schools with sufficient ESL/Bilingual specialists, and provide general education teachers with ELL-relevant training.

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keywords: English Language Learners, Standards-Based Reform, WIDA Consortium Districts