Ross Wiener, policy director ofThe EducationTrust, on the Department of Education’s new No Child LeftBehind provisions regarding limited-English proficient students
(Washington, D.C.) — Todays announcement brings more clarity and common sense to the rules regarding limited-English proficient (LEP) students and, consequently, represents important progress. States and schools have been granted flexibility in testing LEP students’ academic strengths and weaknesses, and will get more credit for the students who are successfully taught English. The short-term solutions announced today should ensure that this years school accountability determinations are more valid and reliable.
Although these changes are modest, they should reassure education leaders and policymakers that the law and the Department possess the flexibility to respond to implementation problems. The shame of it is that it took the Department more than two years to offer such a simple, common-sense solution to a problem that has been bedeviling implementation efforts from the beginning. The delay in issuing these simple rules raises disturbing questions about the Bush Administrations commitment to making the law work.
While this rule brings much-needed flexibility around the specifics of assessment and accountability, it in no way means that states have been let off the hook for meeting their commitments to LEP students.
Since 1994, states have promised to appropriately modify state tests for LEP students and to ensure that LEP students are assessed and included in accountability decisions. Ten years later, many states are still far behind in meeting this obligation. One can only hope that the flexibility announced today will refocus the conversation back onto what’s fair for kids. The rapidly growing LEP population in America demands that we provide better educational opportunities for these students in public education.