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February 19, 2004, Extra Credit
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February 20, 2004
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New Policies Provide States With Increased Flexibility To Help English Language Learners

The U.S. Department of Education announced two new policies yesterday that will help students who are new to this country and the English language while also giving states and local school districts greater flexibility to meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind.

Assessing Limited English Proficient Students

Limited English proficient (LEP) students new to the United States often have a difficult time participating in state assessments due to language barriers or the lack of schooling prior to arriving in the United States from their native countries. Thus, it is often difficult to assess LEP students' content knowledge in reading and other language arts in their first year of enrollment in a U.S. public school.

The policy announced yesterday allows LEP students, during their first year of enrollment in U.S. schools, to have the option of taking the reading/language arts content assessment in addition to taking the English language proficiency assessment. These students would also take the mathematics assessment, with accommodations as appropriate. States may, but would not be required to, include results from the mathematics and, if given, the reading/language arts content assessments in Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) calculations—part of the accountability requirements under No Child Left Behind. Students would be counted as participants for AYP purposes for the 95 percent testing requirement, which ensures that all children count and receive the quality education they deserve. This flexibility provides teachers and students more time for English language instruction and acquisition.

Limited English Proficiency Students as a "Subgroup"

LEP is not a demographic group per se, but a classification that changes as a student gains language proficiency. Its membership can change from year to year with language proficient students exiting each year and new LEP students entering each year. Since LEP students exit the subgroup once they attain English language proficiency, states may have difficulty demonstrating improvements on state assessments for this student subgroup.

The new policy addresses AYP calculations, allowing states to include students who have attained English proficiency in the LEP subgroup for up to two years. This policy is an option for states, not a requirement. It will give states the flexibility to ensure that AYP calculations credit schools and local education agencies (LEAs) for improving English language proficiency from year to year.

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NCLB Extra Credit is a regular look at the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush's landmark education reform initiative passed with bipartisan support in Congress.

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