Area Educators And Administrators Concur That No Child Left Behind Policy Is Failing LEP Students

County Legislator José I. Alvarado (D – Yonkers), following up on his effort to reform the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) policy regarding testing Limited English Proficient (LEP) students, invited leaders from Westchester’s urban school districts to present their concerns to the Board’s Generational, Cultural, and Ethnic Diversity Committee (GCED) at their May 8th meeting.

Among those participating in the meeting’s discussion were Dr. Paul Fried, Superintendent of the Mamaroneck Union Free Schools; Dr. Richard Organisciak, Superintendent and Estee Lopez, ELL director of New Rochelle City Schools;
Gertrude Karabus, ELA Standards Administrator and Ivette Matias, Foreign Language Administrator of Mt. Vernon City Schools; Angela Pagano, Director of Title 1/ESL services for the Yonkers Public Schools; and, Joan Kass, Foreign Language Department Administrator at White Plains High School. 

Each speaker agreed that the NCLB testing policy for LEP students is unfair and irrational and based on a false premise --- that after just one year of English-language instruction, a non-English speaking child was ready to take the same English Language Assessment test as kids who were born here and grew up speaking English.

Many of the speakers stressed that the purpose of any accountability system is to provide feedback on a child’s progress and the effectiveness of the teaching methods being used. But, the consensus was that the ELA test policy for LEP students was a futile exercise. In fact, instead of improving a child’s mastery, the NCLB LEP testing policy was having the opposite effect. It was forcing teachers to divert valuable teaching time to preparing students for the test and it was discouraging to hard-working students doomed to fail a test written for native speakers.

“This meeting confirmed the harmful effects of an insensitive accountability system,” said Alvarado. “From my point of view, as someone who came to America not knowing the English language, it is easy to see how forcing children to take academic tests in a language that they do not yet understand is both unreasonable and embarrassing.”

Alvarado said that school districts were caught between ‘a rock and a hard place.’

“If they do what’s in the best interests of the student, the school district loses critically needed federal funding because it’s not in compliance with NCLB,” said Alvarado. “On the other hand, if the school district complies with NCLB, as the state and the federal government have mandated, then the child loses.”

“Immigrant children have enough obstacles to climb without adding another one, especially one that serves a political, rather than a solid educational purpose,” Alvarado said.

Alvarado’s resolution is currently being refined with input from of the meeting’s attendees and is expected to be signed out by the GCED Committee next Tuesday. The resolution is calling on Congress to either not reauthorize the current version of NCLB or amend it to be more permissive of states’ and schools’ decision making with regard to testing LEP students. The resolution also calls for the state Board of Regents to adopt an equitable accountability system, one in which children are not given a “one-size-fits-all” series of exams.