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News Services Interesting News Articles STATEMENT OF RAUL YZAGUIRRE ON THE ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION ACT
NCBE Newsline - Summer 1998
Interesting News Articles
Students learn in dos lenguajes 991115
STATEMENT OF RAUL YZAGUIRRE ON THE ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION ACT
Washington, DC -- The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) commends the Conference Committee considering reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) for completing work on the No Child Left Behind Act. This legislation includes proposals important to Latinos, including provisions that will allow community-based organizations to provide after-school academic services and provide parents the information necessary to hold schools accountable for improving Latino student outcomes. The No Child Left Behind Act establishes dramatic new systems that seek to promote school accountability and also makes significant changes to the federal bilingual education program.
The No Child Left Behind Act allows community-based groups to provide after-school services to needy students through the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. These groups are in a unique position, because of their community ties and flexible hours of operation, to help children who are at greatest risk of dropping out of school to meet tougher academic standards. This legislation also supports efforts by community groups to provide information to parents so that they can understand the new testing and accountability requirements contained in the Title I program for disadvantaged students. NCLR believes that this will help close a large loophole in standards-based reform by providing parents the tools to hold schools accountable for educating their children.
The legislation that emerged from the Conference represents a major evolution from the original House version, which would have lowered academic expectations for English language learner (ELL) students and created barriers to their meeting the same standards as other students. It now contains several measures supported by NCLR, including provisions to improve teachers' skills, provide parents with the information and options they need to choose the right instructional program for their children, and hold schools more accountable for helping ELLs acquire English and meet challenging academic benchmarks.
In addition, the new bilingual education program provides federal funds to all states that have ELL students, not just the school districts that apply for grants through a competitive process.
Proponents of this specific policy argue that sending money directly to the states will reach more ELLs and, combined with additional resources and new accountability systems, will improve English-language acquisition and academic outcomes for ELLs. Given that state governments are likely to experience budget deficits over the next several years while the number of ELLs continues to grow, we approach this shift in policy with caution.
Unless the schools receive increased resources to serve these additional ELLs, then the funds could end up being spread too thinly among schools to be effective. Thus, we believe that proper implementation of this legislation means that the Congress and the Bush Administration must close the loop by providing states the resources and technical assistance they need to provide ELLs with a quality education. In addition, they must more effectively monitor implementation of the program to ensure that the states are able to meet the ambitious goals set by this legislation.
The process by which this legislation was crafted provides an important lesson to would-be policymakers. The bipartisan compromise reached by Senate and House Conferees was the result of a careful, deliberative process, during which Members of Congress displayed a degree of statesmanship that, compared to the demagoguery that has characterized the debate over bilingual education in California, Arizona, and Massachusetts, eschewed political rhetoric and maintained a focus on truly helping ELL students achieve academically while mastering English. NCLR strongly believes that these students deserve nothing less than a balanced, thoughtful debate like the one that took place during consideration of this bill. We hope that those engaging in similar debates in individual states follow this example, and put ELL students and their needs, and not political ideology, first.
Finally, the No Child Left Behind Act establishes new school accountability systems based on greater testing of students and provides greater flexibility to states and schools by eliminating and consolidating many targeted federal education programs. Thus, supporters of test-driven education reform and flexibility will deservedly claim a measure of victory with passage of this bill. While NCLR believes that raising academic standards and reducing bureaucratic red tape can help improve schooling for Latino and other students, we have always been skeptical that additional testing of students or wholesale elimination of targeted programs alone will increase student achievement.
This legislation provides supporters of high-stakes testing systems and flexibility with the opportunity and responsibility to demonstrate that their vision of education reform is the right one. For our part, we intend to help policy makers and educators committed to improving Latino student achievement to design and implement assessment and accountability systems that work and to channel resources to the most effective programs and activities. But proponents of these reforms should also be aware that those who implement sweeping new testing systems without first taking steps to improve student achievement, or who fail to use their newfound flexibility to invest in effective programs and practices, are likely to be exposed. In those cases, we will encourage and assist parents and advocates to demand the same level of accountability from policy makers, school administrators, and teachers that testing systems require of students.
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