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No Child Left Behind Misguided Accountability System for English Language Learners James Crawford McDaniel College March 21, 2006. No Child Left Behind Act. “ There is always an easy solution to every human problem – neat, plausible, and wrong.” – H. L. Mencken.

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No Child Left Behind

Misguided Accountability System for

English Language Learners

James Crawford

McDaniel College

March 21, 2006

no child left behind act
No Child Left Behind Act

“There is always an easy solution to every human problem – neat, plausible, and wrong.”

– H. L. Mencken

no child left behind act seizing the rhetorical high ground
No Child Left Behind ActSeizing the Rhetorical High Ground

Who is against …

‘accountability’?

‘high standards’?

bridging ‘achievement gaps’?

‘adequate yearly progress’?

‘scientifically based’ programs?

leaving no child behind?

forgotten goals for ells iasa principles eliminated by nclb
Forgotten Goals for ELLsIASA PrinciplesEliminated by NCLB

Whatever happened to …

equal educational opportunity?

adequate resources for schools?

capacity-building to serve ELLs?

bilingualism and biliteracy?

multicultural understanding?

framing the debate terminology counts
‘Framing’ the DebateTerminology Counts

“Frames are mental structures that shape the way we see the world. … When you hear a word, its frame is activated in your brain.

“Reframing is changing the way the public sees the world… Because language activates frames, new language is required for new frames. Thinking differently requires speaking differently.”

– George Lakoff

achievement gap increasing usage of the term
‘Achievement Gap’ Increasing Usage of the Term

New York Times archives:

  • 1981-90 – 4 articles
  • 1991-98 – 14 articles
  • 1999-00 – 59 articles
  • 2001-05 – 173 articles
equal educational opportunity declining usage
‘Equal Educational Opportunity’Declining Usage

New York Times archives:

  • 1991-95 – 46 articles
  • 2001-05 – 10 articles
achievement gap frame vs equal educational opportunity
‘Achievement Gap’ Frame Vs. Equal Educational Opportunity

Paradigm shift = political shift

  • Focus on ‘outputs’
    • Short-term ‘measurable results’
  • Forget about ‘inputs’
    • Adequate resources
    • Trained personnel
    • Effective programs
    • Best practices
accountability nclb is just one possible approach
AccountabilityNCLB Is Just One Possible Approach
  • Who is “held accountable”
    • Educators alone or policymakers at all levels
  • Accountable to whom?
    • Federal/state bureaucrats or local parents/communities
  • Accountable for what?
    • Basics in 2 subjects or all-round education
  • How is accountability measured?
    • Single multiple-choice test or multiple criteria
  • How is accountability administered?
    • Punitive sanctions or positive incentives
  • Why maintain an accountability system?
    • Score political points or improve instruction
nclb accountability system based on assumptions
NCLB Accountability SystemBased on Assumptions

Schools are primarily responsible for achievement gaps, by:

  • failing to work hard enough, long enough
  • setting low expectations
  • wasting time on frills
  • neglecting hard-to-educate students
  • resisting change
  • “making excuses” for poor student performance
nclb accountability system fails to address
NCLB Accountability SystemFails to Address

Known obstacles to ELL achievement:

  • Resource inequities
  • Shortages of bilingual and ESL teachers
  • Limited staff development
  • Lack of financial accountability
  • Poorly designed programs
  • Opposition to research-based practices
  • Segregation in high-poverty schools
no child left behind the civil rights arguments for
No Child Left BehindThe Civil Rights Arguments For
  • Educational neglect is largely responsible for achievement gaps
  • Schools must be held accountable for the performance of underserved groups
  • Disaggregating achievement data will force schools to “pay attention” to neglected students
  • High-stakes testing, labels & sanctions are essential tools toward that end
no child left behind the civil rights arguments against
No Child Left BehindThe Civil Rights Arguments Against
  • Schools are only one factor in achievement gaps
  • Yes, NCLB will bring increased attention to “problem” groups, BUT will it be beneficial or detrimental to children?
  • Misguided accountability systems can do more harm than good
  • Applied recklessly, labels & sanctions will destroy programs that are working
data driven decision making what it means in practice
‘Data-Driven’ Decision-MakingWhat It Means in Practice

Basing decisions on

  • Single result on standardized test
  • Raw test scores rather than controlled studies

Ignoring “scientifically based research”

  • National Literacy Panel (2005)
  • Meta-analyses by Rolstad et al. (2005), Slavin & Chung (2005)
nclb impact on ells high stakes for schools high stakes for kids
NCLB Impact on ELLsHigh Stakes for Schools = High Stakes for Kids
  • ‘Holding accountable’ with faulty data
  • Dismantling effective programs
  • Encouraging English-only instruction
  • Demoralizing educators
  • Reducing curriculum to test prep
  • Creating 2-tier education system
  • Ignoring what is special about ELLs
lau v nichols u s supreme court 1974
Lau v. NicholsU.S. Supreme Court (1974)

“There is no equality of treatment merely by providing students with the same facilities, textbooks, teachers, and curriculum; for students who do not understand English are effectively foreclosed from any meaningful education.”

three inconvenient realities ignored by nclb
Three Inconvenient RealitiesIgnored by NCLB
  • Assessment tools for ELLs are largely inadequate today, neither valid nor reliable
  • ELLs are extremely diverse, making it difficult to set reasonable AYP targets
  • ELL subgroup is unstable by definition – a treadmill on which students will never approach 100% proficiency
assessing ell achievement what nclb requires
Assessing ELL AchievementWhat NCLB Requires

“Adequate yearly progress shall be defined by the State in a manner that … is statistically valid and reliable.”

NCLB, Sec. 1111(b)(2)(C)

assessing ell achievement the reality
Assessing ELL AchievementThe Reality
  • Standardized tests in English
    • Neither designed nor normed for ELLs
  • English tests with accommodations
    • Questionable validity
  • Native-language assessments
    • Rarely aligned to standards
  • Yet all 3 have been approved for high-stakes purposes
nclb in effect holds schools accountable for
NCLB in Effect“Holds Schools Accountable” for
  • Inability of existing assessment tools to measure what ELLs really know

NOT for quality of instruction

ell diversity expectations variables to consider
ELL Diversity & ExpectationsVariables To Consider
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Linguistic & cultural background
  • Initial level of English
  • Prior education
  • Program experience & stability
  • Individual differences in pace of English acquisition
    • Social language – 3-5 years
    • Academic language – 4-7 years
nclb in effect holds schools accountable for22
NCLB in Effect“Holds Schools Accountable” for
  • Demographic profile of their students
  • Variability in children’s linguistic & academic development

NOT for quality of instruction

ell subgroup defined nclb sec 9101 25 d
ELL Subgroup DefinedNCLB, Sec. 9101(25)(D)

A limited-English-proficient (LEP) student is one:

“whose difficulties in speaking, reading, writing, or understanding the English language may be sufficient to deny the individual the ability to meet the State’s proficient level of achievement on State assessments.”

ell subgroup in practice treadmill effect
ELL Subgroup in PracticeTreadmill Effect

Unlike other NCLB subgroups, ELL category is constantly changing

  • New students arrive speaking little English
    • Result: Average ELL scores decline
  • ELLs acquire English, leave subgroup
    • Result: Average ELL scores decline

Progress of individual ELLs is concealed

nclb in effect holds schools accountable for32
NCLB in Effect“Holds Schools Accountable” for
  • Failing to achieve what is mathematically impossible

NOT for quality of instruction

authentic accountability principles
Authentic AccountabilityPrinciples
  • Accuracy
    • Rely on valid, reliable assessments
  • Equity
    • Recognize diverse needs
  • Flexibility
    • Use growth model, not arbitrary AYP targets
  • Capacity-building
    • Stress school improvement, not punishment
authentic accountability recommendations
Authentic AccountabilityRecommendations
  • Track cohorts of ELLs over long term
  • Use multiple measures – not single test
    • Grades; graduation, promotion & dropout rates; alternate assessments
  • Answer to local parents & communities
  • Consider “inputs” as well as “outputs”
    • Program designs; teacher qualifications; adequate resources; academic outcomes
casta eda v pickard 5th u s circuit court of appeals 1981
Castañeda v. Pickard5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (1981)
  • Programs for ELLs must be based on educational theory recognized as sound by experts
  • Resources, personnel, and practices must be reasonably calculated to implement program effectively
  • Programs must be evaluated and, if necessary, restructured to ensure that language barriers are overcome
political prospects how to reform the reform
Political ProspectsHow to Reform the “Reform”
  • NCLB, passed with bipartisan support, is now attracting bipartisan opposition
  • Many provisions are on a collision course with reality
  • Bush “flexibility” policy isn’t working
  • “Attention” to underserved groups also extends to advocates for these groups
  • New opportunities are created to educate the public & policymakers