AALDEF Issues Public Comment on New York State Schools’ Application for Waiver From the Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind
New York State public schools currently serve 238,792 English Language Learners (ELLs). Through its participation in the New York State School and District Accountability Think Tank, AALDEF, together with Advocates for Children of New York, submitted substantive recommendations for accountability provisions regarding ELLs to be included in the state’s application for waiver from certain punitive provisions of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
On Friday, January 20, the NYS Department of Education released its draft waiver application for public comment. We are pleased the application proposes measures to improve educational accountability regarding ELLs, including: updating standards and resources, aligning English as a Second Language (ESL) and Native Language curricula with standard English Language Arts (ELA) curricula, and improving teacher professional development.
But there is still room for improvement. As part of the 10-day comment period on the draft waiver application, AALDEF submitted its analysis of where further efforts for ELLs are needed. These include:
Better Assessments and Measures for ELLs: The current waiver application does not provide sufficient flexibility to incorporate the above ELL-focused reforms into its system of differentiated recognition, accountability, and support in public schools.
Use of NYSESLAT Test for Teacher and Principal Evaluation: The current, flawed New York State English As A Second Language Achievement Test (NYSELAT) has not been scaled for accountability and imposes such exacting standards on high school ELLs that it often prevents their reclassification as mainstream students. Although the current test will still be in place when the draft waiver is initially implemented, it should not be used for teacher and principal evaluation.
Supports and Interventions for ELLs: Support mechanisms tailored toward ELLs, as well as those specifically directed at long-term ELLs and students with interrupted formal education, must be further specified. In schools undergoing mandated restructuring, support mechanisms must ensure continuity in ELLs’ education programs regardless of fluctuations in school staff.