A May 2012 report by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) concludes that, despite challenges, states, school districts, and schools are making progress in identifying and addressing the educational needs and tracking the academic achievement of English learner (EL) students. Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, funds EL programs and holds school districts accountable for the progress of EL students in acquiring English language proficiency (ELP) and achieving established state academic standards. The report found, however, that variations in the processes used to identify EL students may impact Title III funding levels, accountability, and service delivery; e.g., a student considered an EL in one school district may not be eligible for, or may be exited from, special instructional services in another district, sometimes, even within the same state.
The report cited several findings regarding state and district implementation of, and compliance with, Title III as of the 2009-10 school year. School districts that receive Title III funding must provide special instructional services to EL students; choosing from three broad categories of instructional services, 98 percent of Title III districts provided English as a Second Language instruction to EL students. Title III districts are required to develop English language proficiency (ELP) standards; 45 states and the District of Columbia had developed ELP standards and linked them to, or aligned them with, state content standards in at least one core subject such as English, math, or science. States are required to establish accountability systems to monitor state and district performance in supporting EL students’ ELP development and academic achievement in accordance with the individual state’s Annual Measurable Achievement Objectives (AMAO); in 2008-09, 55 percent of Title III districts fully met their state’s AMAOs.
According the report, the Title III accountability requirements, with supplemental funding for educating EL students, resulted in a “dramatic shift” for many states in how they approached serving this growing population. “States and districts, particularly those that did not have a long history of serving this student population, thus had the impetus to focus attention and resources on EL policies and practices. Title III also raised awareness around EL issues in states and districts, prompting state, district, and school administrators to pay attention to this historically underserved population.”
ED’s full report, National Evaluation of Title III Implementation – Report on State and Local Implementation, is available at http://tinyurl.com/cvv3z5z.