No Child Left Behind and English Language Learners

Title III of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act requires that all English language learners (ELLs) receive quality instruction for learning both English and grade-level academic content. NCLB allows local flexibility for choosing programs of instruction, while demanding greater accountability for ELLs' English language and academic progress.

Under Title III, states are required to develop standards for English Language Proficiency and to link those standards to the state's Academic Content Standards. Schools must make sure that ELLs are part of their state's accountability system and that ELLs' academic progress is followed over time.

Here are some of the NCLB requirements concerning ELLs:

  • All ELL students' English language proficiency must be tested at least once a year.
  • All ELLs have to take state academic achievement tests in language arts and math, except that ELL students who have been in the U.S. for less than one year do not have to take the language arts test for that first year. If available from the state, ELL students can take these language arts and math tests in their native languages.
  • ELL students who have been in U.S. schools for three consecutive years must be tested in reading/language arts using a test written in English, although on a case-by-case basis, this period can be extended up to five years.
  • ELL students as a group must meet specific annual targets of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Schools, districts, and states will be held accountable for ensuring that they meet these targets.
  • Teachers must be certified as English language proficient. School districts are to certify that all teachers in a language instruction education program for ELL students are fluent in English and any other language used by the program, including written and oral communication skills.
  • Curricula must be demonstrated to be effective. Language instruction curricula used to teach ELL children are to be tied to scientifically based research and demonstrated to be effective.
  • Local entities have the flexibility to choose the method of instruction to teach ELLs.
  • States must establish standards and benchmarks for raising the level of English proficiency and meeting challenging state academic standards for ELL students that are aligned with state standards.
  • Annual achievement objectives for ELL students must relate to gains in English proficiency and meet challenging state academic standards that are aligned with Title I achievement standards.
  • Parents must be notified by the local education agency concerning why their child needs a specialized language instruction program. Parents have the right to choose among instructional programs if more than one type of program is offered and have the right to remove their child from a program for ELL children.

Note: Different states may have different interpretations of some of these points. Check to see if your state law supersedes any of the above requirements.

With this increased focus on setting higher expectations and accountability for ELL students, it is even more important for mainstream teachers to ensure quality instruction for ELLs by: assessing and placing ELLs with the goal of achieving adequate yearly progress; using effective strategies for teaching reading and teaching content areas; and learning more about ELL theories, issues, and state standards.

Excerpted from: Reed, B. and Railsback, J. (May 2003) Strategies and Resources for Mainstream Teachers of English Language Learners. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory.

And from: U.S. Department of Education. (2002). No Child Left Behind: A Desktop Reference. Washington, D.C.: EdPubs.

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.