For English language learners, perhaps more than any other segment of American public education, The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) fundamentally changed how schools conduct the business of their education. The law, for the first time, required schools to show agreed-upon levels of progress moving English learners toward proficiency in English, and then linked those and other results to federal dollars. NCLB even took the sensible step of requiring bilingual education teachers themselves to be fluent in written and spoken English.
But when it comes to improving the transition rates that ultimately measure such growth, English learners in some states fare much better than others. In Arizona, California, Illinois and elsewhere, the rates at which English learners attain sufficient skills and are fully integrated into mainstream, English classrooms remain well under 10 percent per year. The rest continue in Transitional Bilingual Education programs that, in fact, seem barely transitional at all.
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