While Americans commemorated the 9-11 attacks, the United States Department of Education unveiled its “Flexibility and Accountability for Limited English Proficient Students” program. As you may know, the President’s “No Child Left Behind” Act stipulates that children are to be able to read at grade level, and also perform mathematics at grade level by the year 2014. While we are still quite a ways away from that crucial date, the recent immigration debate that has swept the country has brought to the forefront a possible avenue of failure of the President’s plan: students who are children of immigrants and who may not speak English.
While the Department of Education has been wracking its departmental heads to come up with a solution, it appears that those children who do not speak English, or do not speak it well enough to ensure their grade-level success, have finally been granted some special rights: namely flexibility. Referred to as a new Title I regulation, these children will be taught the English language while the school district that received them will not be held to the standards set forth under the Act (this is the flexibility portion of the new regulation) while they are trusted to give the children a quality education in spite of any language barriers (which is the accountability portion of the regulation).
While their hearts are in the right places, the question does remain if this is an easy out for school districts. After all, what will ensure that immigrant children will receive a high quality education that will ensure that their language abilities (or lack thereof) will not cause them to permanently limp behind their classmates?
The regulations that are seeking to prohibit this from happening are as follows:
- Children are permitted to enter the program if they have attended schools in the United States for less than 12 months and one day.
- Children who qualify thusly may be exempted by the state in which they live from taking one administration of the reading/language arts test.
- While these students must be included in math testing and in 2007 also in science testing, their math scores do not have to count.
- It is up to the individual states to ensure that non-English speaking children will be given education that will help them to acquire the English language skills they need to succeed.