No Child Left Behind: A Toolkit for Teachers
Archived Information

Teaching English Language Learners

Research shows that students who cannot read or write in English have a greater likelihood of dropping out of school, and they often face a life time of diminished opportunity.22

Under No Child Left Behind, the academic progress of every child, including those learning English, will be assessed in reading, math and eventually science. English language learners will be assessed annually to measure how well they are learning English, so parents and teachers will know how well they are progressing, and states and schools will be held accountable for results.

For more information on teaching English language learners, visit the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition Web site at

No Child Left Behind Gives Schools the Freedom to Find the Best Methods of Instruction and Assessment

  • No Child Left Behind does not dictate a particular method of instruction for learning English and other academic content. Districts and schools have the prerogative to choose the methods of instruction that best meets the needs of students, including methods of instructing in another language or in English.

  • States must establish English language proficiency standards and assessments.

  • Schools must provide high-quality instruction to English language learners in reading, math and other academic subjects.

  • States and districts must ensure that there are highly qualified teachers in all classrooms, including classrooms with English language learners.

Children who are acquiring English are also learning academic content in areas such as reading, math and science. They will be tested in these areas to evaluate progress. States must provide these assessments to new English language learners in their native language to the extent that is feasible, or with language accommodations (such as having the directions on a math test read to them). These decisions are left up to the states, as they work with districts and schools and consider their programs for English language learners.

No Child Left Behind requires new English language learners to take a test in reading and language arts the very first year they are in school and unfairly holds schools accountable for the results.

NCLB allows districts to work with states to determine appropriate tests for new English language learners. The first year these students are in a U.S. school, they can take the English language proficiency (ELP) test and not the regular assessment. Districts that also choose to give these students the regular reading/language arts assessment in the first year are not required under the law to include their scores in AYP calculations, and may use scores on the ELP test instead. In addition, states with larger numbers of new English language learners receive more funds (under Title III of NCLB) to meet the challenge of educating these students.

For more information on assessments for English language learners, visit

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Last Modified: 08/13/2009