The no Child left Behind (NCLB) legislation presented conservatives with plenty not to like, but one set of changes received their hearty endorsement: reforming bilingual education to help students master English. Now the National Education Association (NEA) is drumming up support for "technical amendments" to NCLB that would gut these pro-English provisions, and it is finding resonance among Democrats and the press.
Prior to NCLB, a $300 million federal bilingual program had promoted programs that failed to move students to English fluency. Instead, they often focused on maintaining students' native language and culture. NCLB instituted pro-English, pro-parent reforms. For the first time, teachers of limited English proficient (LEP) students are to be fluent in English. States must develop measures of progress toward English fluency, and LEP students must be tested in English after three years. Parents are to be informed of the English program options available to their children.
The NEA wants to delay testing provisions, to forgo the requirement for reporting to parents, and to have "flexible standards" for bilingual teachers. "What the NEA is attempting to do with their 'technical amendments' is to eliminate any obligations public schools have under No Child Left Behind to demonstrate improved fluency for English learners," said Don Soifer, who monitors bilingual policy at the Lexington Institute.