ETS, La Raza Conference: English-language Learners Fastest-growing Segment of U.S. School Population

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sat Jan 19 15:43:26 UTC 2008

ETS, La Raza Conference: English-language Learners Fastest-growing
Segment of U.S. School Population

by Angela P. Dodson
Jan 18, 2008, 08:12   Email article

Princeton, N.J.

Educators and policy-makers answered the call to attend a two-day
conference convened by Educational Testing Service and the National
Council of La Raza (NCLR) to assess progress in educating students who
are not proficient in English when they enter American schools and to
discuss research on potential solutions. The hosts noted that
English-language learners are the fastest-growing segment of the
student population in U.S. public schools and that the No Child Left
Behind law mandates that each state account for the instruction and
performance of students learning English and demonstrate that progress
is being made. However, educators have been struggling to find the
most effective ways to teach English skills and help immigrant
students progress in their academic subjects. Many students who are
not proficient in English fall behind in other subjects as well.

The conference "Addressing Achievement Gaps: The Language Acquisition
and Education Achievement of English-Language Learners," was held
earlier this week. It attracted 320 participants, including teachers
from throughout New Jersey, nearby states and elsewhere, as well as
college administrators and other education officials from around the
nation. Dr. Michael Nettles, senior vice president of the policy
evaluation and research center for ETS, said organizers were pleased
that the conference attracted some of the "leading thinkers in our
nation who have devoted many years of their lives to studying, writing
and advocating" for students learning English. He noted that it was
the eighth conference ETS has held on achievement gap issues.

Kurt Landgraf, president and CEO of ETS, told attendees that teaching
English-language learners, ELL, students, "is extremely important,
because the statistics are overwhelming." "We are no longer talking
about dealing with a minority part of our population," he said, but
with a segment that is very quickly becoming a majority in schools and
in the U.S. population. He said that in the 2004-2005 school year, 5.1
million U.S. students in kindergarten through 12th grade, or one in
every nine K-12 students, were trying to learn enough English to
follow what was being taught in their classrooms. Those learning
English represent 450 original languages, Landgraf said. By the year
2025, he added, one in four students will come to school needing to
learn English.

"We need to find ways to reach these populations that is not only
socially conscious, but, frankly, in the best interest of the United
States economically," the ETS president said. He added that while many
people believe the immigrant language issue is an urban, inner-city
phenomenon, non-English speakers are increasingly dispersing to many
states and rural areas. Landgraf said states like Nebraska, North
Carolina, Indiana and Alabama saw 300 percent increases of students
whose mother tongue was not English.
 "We extol the saga of immigration in this country," he said. "At the
same time, the political rhetoric has become nasty and foul and tinged
with a self-centered approach" that has a political agenda driven by

Delia Pompa, vice president of education for La Raza, said the No
Child Left Behind act, now pending reauthorization, "is the civil
rights legislation of today" for the children learning English. "What
we fight about today is not whether there are going to be services for
English-language learners," she said, "but about how we are going to
include them in assessments, how we are going to include them in
adequate yearly progress. I think that, despite the many complaints I
hear in the field, is a very big step forward for us." She said the No
Child Left Behind act "is why people who didn't care about
English-language learners before are very, very concerned about their

She added that the country has a long way to go in addressing the
issues. La Raza is a national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy
organization. Presenters discussed demographic trends in language
education, achievement gaps in other subject areas for students
learning English, early childhood learning of language, teacher
preparation, special-needs students learning English and successful
teaching methods among other topics. Materials generated by the
conference will be available on the ETS Web site,
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