Educational Decisions about the Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CLD) Students under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act

By Shah, Amee P. | Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

Educational Decisions about the Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CLD) Students under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act


Shah, Amee P., Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table


Introduction

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, proposed in 2002, was designed mainly with the laudable goal to help those students who were historically underserved, namely children with special needs/disabilities, those from economically disadvantaged homes, and those from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CLD) backgrounds for whom English is a second language, i.e., those labeled as the English Language Learners (ELLs) subgroup. These subgroups of children faced persistent achievement gaps relative to the mainstream children, yet schools were not held accountable for their performance. The premise of the NCLB Act was to create a viable solution to reduce these achievement gaps for these children. However, as demonstrated in this paper, this act has high promise in theory, yet it is lacking in its applicability as the fitting solution in serving the needs of the underserved children-especially those of from the ELL/CLD backgrounds. This paper focuses particularly on the implications of NCLB on the ELL subgroup in light of the fact that this is a rapidly-growing population with rather urgent educational needs as indicated by demographic data. These numbers show, for example, that as many as 5.4 million children nationwide have been reported speaking English with limited proficiency skills. Across 25 states, classrooms have doubled in their ELL representation from 1993 to 2005. These substantial numbers of ELL children are under-performing and need marked assistance. For example, only 4 percent of eight-grader ELLs scored at or above "proficient" in reading, compared with 32 percent of their native English-speaking peers, according to the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress. As further instantiation of the imperative educational difficulties in the ELL subgroup, U.S. Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings quotes "all across America, less than half of African American and Hispanic fourth graders have basic reading skills as defined by the Nation's Report Card. That's more than 700,000 children who can barely read! So it's really no surprise that half of our minority students don't graduate from high school on time. (1)

In keeping with such a demonstrated necessity to understand and meet the special needs of the ELL subgroup in the present-day educational setting driven by the new NCLB Act, this paper aims to: 1) introduce background facts of the NCLB Act, 2) identify the potential problems in its applicability especially in serving the needs of ELL/CLD children, and 3) provides strategies and recommendations for schools, teachers and parents to circumvent the problems posed by this act, and ensure that the needs of the CLD children are adequately met despite some of the limitations in the Act.

NCLB: The Facts

NCLB, according to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), is "a landmark in education reform designed to improve student achievement and change the culture of America's schools," (ASHA, 2006). NCLB has a goal to bringing every child up to the same, if not greater academic level than the average student in America. To accomplish this ambitious goal, the NCLB program provides schools a way to avail special services to those children in need of remediation. With stringent guidelines and huge proposed investments, NCLB entails a comprehensive system of checks and balances. NCLB has established several principal components that accomplish and set guidelines for the checks and balances that revolve around four basic areas. These areas are as follows: accountability for results, emphasis on doing what works based on scientific research, expanded parental options, and expanded local control and flexibility. To implement this plan the program was estimated to allot $15 billion for distribution throughout the nation.

The four different areas of objectives that make NCLB work all have very different guidelines with the centerpiece focusing on accountability. …

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