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ESEA/NCLB Update #203

Administration emphasizes obligations of schools to English learners

The Department of Education (ED) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) released detailed guidance to states, districts and schools on the steps they must take to ensure that English learner students have meaningful and equal access to a high quality education. The historic guidance pulls together in one place the duties of schools under a range of federal statutes and court decisions. According to an ED statement, the guidance spells out a school’s obligation to:

  • identify English learner students in a timely, valid and reliable manner;
  • offer all English learner students an educationally sound language assistance program;
  • provide qualified staff and sufficient resources for instructing English learner students;
  • ensure English learner students have equitable access to school programs and activities;
  • avoid unnecessary segregation of English learner students from other students;
  • monitor students' progress in learning English and doing grade-level classwork;
  • remedy any academic deficits English learner students incurred while in a language assistance program;
  • move students out of language assistance programs when they are proficient in English and monitor those students to ensure they were not prematurely removed;
  • evaluate the effectiveness of English learner programs; and
  • provide limited English proficient parents with information about school programs, services, and activities in a language they understand.

The Departments also released a fact sheet on school’s basic obligations to students, a fact sheet on school’s obligations to parents, and a toolkit to help districts identify English learner students. Translations of the fact sheet in multiple languages can be found on ED’s English learner resource page.

Hill leaders announce reauthorization goals

This week launched the 2015 ESEA reauthorization season as Senate leaders and ED released their visions for reauthorization. This week’s actions included release of a discussion draft reauthorization bill from Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee, a statement from the committee’s Ranking Democratic member Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), and a speech by Arne Duncan to which NEA responded. For updates on the reauthorization as it progresses, visit NEA’s Legislative Action Center (LAC) page.

FairTest suggests 9 ways state legislatures can reduce test abuse

The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) has released a guide listing nine steps state legislatures can take to stop test misuse and improve education. According to the guide, resistance in the states to excessive testing reached unprecedented levels in 2014. Among the steps recommended by FairtTest: reduce state-mandated standardized testing to, for example, no more than what is federally required or less; limit district testing; ban large-scale standardized testing in grades K-2; end the use of tests for grade promotion and graduation; prohibit test score use in evaluating educators; support calls for Congress to limit testing to grade spans; and allow parents to opt their children out of testing.

ED posts webinar on the waiver renewal process

Following up on its release of waiver renewal FAQs, ED posted a December 18 powerpoint with audio on its waiver renewal page, focusing largely on waiver Principle 1 (standards and assessments) and Principle 2 (accountability). The powerpoint also emphasizes a state's obligation to consult with stakeholders in the renewal process. ED said it planned a similar webinar on Principle 3 (teacher and principal evaluation), which may be posted soon on the renewal page. Renewal applications are due March 31 unless the state is seeking expedited review under a January 30 deadline.

Application for teaching ambassador fellowships posted

ED posted applications for the 2015-2016 cohort of Teaching and Principal Ambassador Fellows. The policy-oriented program contains two different options for candidates, the Washington Fellowship at ED headquarters, and the Classroom Fellowship, a part-time program that allows a fellow to remain in their current position. The deadline for applications is January 20. For more information see the applicant web page.

Take action: Join the GPS Network

Join the Great Public Schools Network, a place where NEA members, affiliates, and partners are collaborating to improve public education through a student-centered agenda.

Published January 16, 2015

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