New York, NY — At the first-ever National Asian American Education Advocates Summit held at Columbia University last month, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), a 34-year old civil rights organization, released its new report detailing several provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) that must be overhauled in order to meet the needs of Asian American students.
AALDEF’s report, Left in the Margins: Asian American Students and the No Child Left Behind Act, demonstrates how Asian Americans who are English Language Learners (ELLs) are currently set up to fail under NCLB. Citing Census statistics and numerous examples in school districts around the country, AALDEF illustrates how this marginalized community is falling through our public education system’s cracks. Left in the Margins puts a spotlight on particular school districts where Asian American ELL students are the most visible and also highly vulnerable due to the lack of appropriate services.
Margaret Fung, AALDEF executive director, said: “Since the No Child Left Behind law was enacted, we have not seen significant improvements in the quality of public education. Instead, Asian Americans– especially immigrant, poor and non-English speaking students–have been left behind to fend for themselves in securing basic educational services.”
Key recommendations from AALDEF’s report propose several major changes in NCLB:
– Provide targeted language services for Asian American ELLs, since nearly a quarter of all Asian American students are ELLs. Among those between the ages 5 and 17, over half of Hmong Americans, 39% of Vietnamese Americans, and 34% of Bangladeshi Americans are ELLs.
– Use absolute numerical thresholds and/or population ratios in smaller districts or counties (rather than states) to determine the need for native language materials. Asian American ELLs are densely populated in specific neighborhoods throughout the country. For example, Vietnamese-speaking ELLs in Seattle constitute 16% of all ELLs in the city, but only 4% of the total ELL population in the state of Washington. If native language materials were available only for language minority groups that made up at least 10% of ELLs in a state, then large numbers of Vietnamese-speaking ELLs would not benefit from native language materials.
– Use multiple forms of assessment to measure ELL student achievement and limit the use of testing-based sanctions to abate high dropout rates among ELL students. In New York City, the class of 2006’s ELL population had a dropout rate of 30% compared to 6.9% of all students citywide.
– Provide states with funds to hire more ESL specialists, bilingual education specialists, and teachers bilingual in Asian languages. Although Vietnamese is the second most common native language of ELLs in California, there is only one bilingual teacher for every 662 Vietnamese-speaking students in the state.
– Provide states with more funds to translate school documents, hire interpreters, and conduct community education for immigrant families. Over 40% of Vietnamese, Korean, and Chinese households are linguistically isolated.
– Require every state to collect comprehensive student data that is disaggregated by ethnicity, native language, socioeconomic status, ELL status, and ELL program type. Without this information, the educational needs of individual groups are concealed and will remain unaddressed.
Copies of Left in the Margins: Asian American Students and the No Child Left Behind Act are available here.
For more information:
Khin Mai Aung
212.966.5932 ext. 219
Program Associate, Educational Equity and Youth Rights Project
212.966.5932 ext. 210