Federal Policy & ELLs: 1965 - 2015

The current federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, is the next iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), known for a period as No Child Left Behind.

Learn more about how the law has evolved from the following resources, as well as from experts who weigh in on topics such as the legislation's assessment requirements, implications for ELL instruction, and the definition of ELL success.

ESEA & NCLB: What's in a name?

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is also referred to as The Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  The following timeline offers an overview of NCLB's evolution.

ESEA: The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was enacted in 1965 under President Lyndon Johnson.

NCLB: In 2001, ESEA was reauthorized as the No Child Left Behind Act under President George W. Bush.

ESEA Flexibility: In 2011, the U.S. Department of Education under President Barack Obama invited each state educational agency to request flexibility on behalf of itself, its local educational agencies, and schools.

ESSA Signed Into Law: On December 10, 2015, President Obama signed the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.

Both "ESEA" and "NCLB" appear in policy discussion.

See this timeline on ESEA's history from Education Week.

NCLB and ELL Guidelines

NCLB and the Assessment of ELLs

This article by Kristina Robertson offers a brief overview of what No Child Left Behind says about the assessment of ELLs, as well as discussion of what these guidelines mean for schools.

The Impact of No Child Left Behind on ELLs: An Overview

This excerpt from Foundations for Teaching English Language Learners: Research, Theory, Policy, and Practice (Caslon, 2010) provides a user-friendly introduction to topics such as accountability, assessments, English language proficiency standards, and Title III guidelines.

Serving English Learners: Laws, Policies, and Regulations

This printable guide, written for Colorín Colorado by Dr. Debbie Zacarian, provides a more detailed introduction to federal laws regarding ELLs, including information about assessment under NCLB. This guide is strongly recommended for program directors, administrators, district leaders, and policy makers.

Discussion Topics

Making Sense of NCLB for English Learners

This article written for Colorín Colorado by Kathleen Leos and Lisa C. Saavedra of The Global Institute for Language and Literacy Development discusses the strengths and challenges of ELL provisions in No Child Left Behind, as well as some of the reasons why the authors believe those provisions were needed.

Education Policy and Our Perception of ELL Performance

In this excerpt from English Language Learners at School: A Guide for Administrators, 2nd Edition (Caslon, 2012), Else Hamayan discusses three trends informing pedagogical decisions that she feels are counterproductive and potentially harmful for ELLs.

Dual Immersion: Can It Survive 'Data-Driven Reform'?

In this article written for Colorín Colorado, James Crawford and Sharon Adelman Reyes share some of the benefits of dual-language learning and pedagogy that are documented in their new book, Diary of a Bilingual School (DiversityLearningK12, 2012). They also discuss ways in which they feel accountability measures under NCLB discourage schools from implementing native language instruction and bilingual/dual-language programming.


Our policy section is made possible by a generous grant from the Carnegie Corporation. The statements and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the authors.