No Child Left Behind Act and Its Effect on English Language Learners Term Paper

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No Child Left Behind Act and Its Effect on English Language Learners

No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and Its Effect on English Language Learners

The United States is no longer a "melting pot, but has rather emerged in the 21st century as a "salad bowl" where many minorities may not readily become as assimilated into mainstream American society as in years past. The implications of these trends for the public school system in the U.S. has been profound, particularly in view of the recent mandates established by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (hereinafter "NCLB," or alternatively, "the Act"). According to Arce, Luna, Borjian and Conrad, "Proponents of the No Child Left Behind Act claim that its mission is to close the achievement gap by holding school districts and states accountable, encouraging the use of flexible educational approaches, and supporting parents' rights to school choice" (p. 56). Less than 13% of teachers in American classrooms currently possess even minimal ESL training, though, and just 8 to 10% of teachers have bilingual or ESL certification (Rice & Pappamihiel, 2004).

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Furthermore, the number of ELL students in American classrooms continues to increase faster than the system can accommodate them. In fact, more than four-and-a-half million students were identified as English language learners (ELLs) attended school in the educational system in the United States, prekindergarten through Grade 12, in 2000-2001, accounting for almost 10% of the total public school enrollment (Komatsu & Witt, 2006). In addition, during the period from 1989 to 2006, the ELL population has approximately doubled, a trend that these researchers predict will continue for at least the next two decades (Komatsu & Witt, 2006). While special language programs are provided for more than 400 different language groups in American classrooms, approximately 80% of ELLs today are Spanish speakers (Ortiz, Wilkinson, Robertson-Courtney & Kushner, 2006). In this environment, identifying the impact of the NCLB on ELL students represents a timely investigation as described further below.

Tentative Research Questions

Term Paper on No Child Left Behind Act and Its Effect on English Language Learners Assignment

The following tentative research questions are based on the preliminary review of the literature and may be subject to changes, deletions or additions as the research process progresses:

What are the specific requirements of the NCLB for ELL students for individual subject areas?

What are the responsibilities of the ELL students?

What are the responsibilities of the ELL teachers?

What are the responsibilities of the school districts and administrators?

What changes have taken place in standardized or high-stakes testing scores since the enactment of the NCLB?

What has been shown to be effective in helping ELL students achieve improved performance?

Rationale for the Study

Because resources are by definition scarce, it is vitally important for educators and administrators at all levels to use the resources available to their maximum advantage in achieving the performance mandates established by the NCLB. In this regard, Kesson and Ross (2004) emphasize that, "The diverse responsibilities of public schools present a huge challenge to educators, and even when schools are performing well, it is difficult, if not impossible, for them to deliver all the expected results when their mission necessarily entails contradictory purposes" (p. ix). Likewise, as Mayers (2006) emphasizes, "Ideally, each citizen would have the opportunity to be taught by a well trained educator, and teachers would be equipped with an ability and liberty to apply the fruits of their teaching experience to their process as they tailor the delivery of curricula to the idiosyncratic needs of their students. A benchmark of success might be identified and adequate resources supplied to achieve educational goals" (p. 449). Far more importantly, though, young English language learners are not products and schools are not factories, and there is no room for false starts and little room for experimentation when it comes to these children. Therefore, identifying the impact of the NCLB on English language learners represents a timely area of investigation today, and can identify opportunities for improvement where deficiencies exist and provide a best practices guide for busy educators seeking superior alternatives.

Significance of the Study

In an increasingly multicultural society, developing laws that are equitable and fair is becoming harder than ever, and even the most well-intentioned legislation may have some unintended or unexpected consequences, and the NCLB is no exception. In this regard, according to Abedi and Dietel (2004), "One of the most controversial aspects of NCLB is its performance requirements for subgroups within the general student population. The NCLB requires that all children, including English-language learners (ELLs), reach high standards by demonstrating proficiency in English language arts and mathematics by 2014" (p. 782).

In an era of increased demands for accountability on the part of teachers and students alike, this date is not a suggestion or a recommendation, but rather a fundamental mandate that must be met. As a result, it is the responsibility of school districts across the country to help ELL students in particular achieve ongoing progress toward this objective, as gauged by student performance on a wide range of high-stakes state-level tests, or face serious consequences for their failure (Abedi & Dietel, 2004). In this regard, Rice, Pappamihiel and Lake (2004) report that, "Growing demands for accountability, such as that called for in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 will soon make it impossible for school districts and teachers in the United States to ignore their responsibilities to provide appropriate assistance to all students, including ELLs" (p. 121). The consequences for failure are in fact serious - and expensive. According to Imber and Van Geel (2004):

The federal statute known as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) imposes on states and school districts a complex set of requirements intended to ensure that all children achieve academic proficiency. Students in schools that fail for two consecutive years to make 'adequate yearly progress' must, under the NCLB, be given the option to transfer to another public school in the same school district, including a charter school if permitted under state law, that has not been identified under NCLB as needing improvement. The school district must provide or pay for transportation for the student to attend the new school. (p. 34)

The introduction of high-stakes testing regimens has made these costs even more severe, and their link with the NCLB is made clear by Rice and her colleagues: "With the advent of the No Child Left Behind legislation, reading and mathematics have assumed a critical importance to standardized tests" (p. 121). According to Cochran-Smith (2005), a growing body of evidence has identified what seems to be a discernible pattern across the country as a result of the NCLB's impact on ELL students: "New regulations requiring that graduation rates be included in NCLB accountability provisions are not being enforced, whereas incentives for removing low-scoring students are rigidly followed. This means that there may now be perverse incentives in many states to push low-performing students out the back door so districts can avoid test-driven sanctions" (p. 99). Based on the foregoing, it is clear that educators, administrators and students alike are confronted with some significant challenges when it comes to meeting the requirements established by the NCLB, and these issues are discussed further in the preliminary review of the literature provided below.

Review of the Relevant Literature

In reality, it is difficult to find fault with the apparent goals of the NCLB. In this regard, Cochran-Smith (2005) points out that, "Nearly everybody agreed with the bill's purpose -- 'to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to attain a high-quality education and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on challenging state academic achievement standards and state academic assessments,'" a worthwhile purpose that was to be accomplished through complex funding methods and the provision of more federal resources to high-poverty and struggling schools (p. 99). According to Chamberlain (2004), the two primary goals of the NCLB are: (a) to raise standards across U.S. schools; and, (b) to decrease the achievement gap between those students who traditionally perform well in school and those who traditionally have been considered underachieving (the latter group generally includes students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, students from low-income families, urban students, rural students, and students with disabilities).

Certainly, one way to achieve this decrease in the achievement gap is to lower the bar, but this would defeat the purpose of the legislation and run contrary to the fundamental purpose of providing a quality education in the 21st century. Nevertheless, the latter group of students described by Chamberlain (2004) does in fact represent a particularly difficult demographic to educate for a wide range of reasons that are beyond the scope of the instant study; these harsh realities, though, adversely affect the ability of many of these disadvantaged students to compete on the same basis as their advantaged counterparts across the board. Despite the enormity of these challenges, though, the NCLB is the law of the land and the mandates are clear. For example, in their timely study, "Challenges in the No Child Left Behind… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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