Chapter 14: No Child Left Untested
By James Crawford
Language Policy and School Reform
A Nation at Risk
Educational Quality and Equality
Standards and Goals
No Child Left Behind Act
Implications for English Learners
While bilingual education is hardly to blame for failing schools, neither is it a panacea. The most creative use of the native language cannot overcome a hostile learning environment or an incompetent administration. Not that creativity is the norm. Mediocrity is no stranger to bilingual programs, as any professional in the field can confirm (even if many hesitate to do so in an adversarial climate). Although bilingual pedagogies have advanced enormously since 1968, they have developed unevenly among states, districts, and schools. Local attitudes toward bilingualism, relations among ethnic groups, availability of resources, and quality of educational leadership have all played a role.
Above all, this experience has shown that improving outcomes for language minority students is a complex undertaking. It requires not merely appropriate instruction, but fundamental changes in the way schools relate to students, parents, and communities. It demands that the unique needs of LEP children be considered in every step toward school reform. In addition, as bilingual educators began to recognize over the past decade, it necessitates their active participation. No longer can they remain a field apart. English learners need to be represented in deliberations over education policies that affect them just as directly as they affect other students.
Reform is a loaded word. Although journalists and politicians now seem to apply the term whenever any change in policy is proposed, it also carries connotations of improvement, elimination of abuses, and correction of faults. More often than not, these are matters of debate. In education policy over the past two decades, the debate has developed largely along partisan and ideological lines. Some might argue that the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, which was approved by large bipartisan majorities in Congress, contradicts this pattern. In fact, the law resulted from a convergence of political currents flowing from very different directions. This may help to explain why the climate that produced the legislation has become increasingly turbulent. To understand the contending philosophies involved, a bit of history is necessary.
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