Students who don’t know English aren’t expected to achieve proficiency in some states, reports Education Week (requires registration). Under No Child Left Behind, states must submit plans showing how quickly they’ll move non-fluent students to proficiency.
Michigan’s plan seems to be among the most ambitious, promising to bring 95 percent of students who are now at the most basic level of learning English to full proficiency in four years.
Michigan defines proficiency as being able to earn a C or better in mainstream English classes without extra help.
On the other end of the spectrum is Minnesota, which divides its English-language learners into three groups, depending on how long they have been in special programs. For those who have studied English for less than three years, the state plans to move 2.5 percent to full proficiency this school year. The goal is only slightly higher for students who have studied from three to five years, or six or more years.
By 2013, Minnesota says, it will have raised the percentage of students who have been in programs for six or more years and who are deemed fully proficient from 3.8 percent to 12 percent.
California promises to move 30 percent of students with four-plus years in language programs to proficiency; the long-term goal is a 46 percent proficiency rate.
The feds aren’t getting tough on states just yet, since many are only just now developing tests of English language acquisition. (Why bother if you won’t be held accountable?) However, NCLB also requires schools to test students who’ve been in the country for three or more years in English. Non-fluent students are expected to show progress over time. That’s expected to force schools to teach more in English.