A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Key Policy Letters Signed by the Education Secretary or Deputy Secretary

Note: An identical letter was also sent to:
    Mr. Roberto Rodriguez
    HEC Co-Chair
    National Council of La Raza
    1111 19th Street, NW, Suite 1000
    Washington, DC 20036


June 23, 1999

Ms. Patricia Loera
HEC Co-Chair
National Association for Bilingual Education
1220 L Street, NW, Suite 605
Washington, DC 20005

Dear Ms. Loera:

I am writing in response to the issues you raised regarding the treatment of limited English proficient (LEP) students in the Department's proposal to reauthorize Title I and Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. I am sending an identical letter to Mr. Roberto Rodriguez.

The Department's reauthorization proposal includes several provisions to help students progress in reaching high standards and in learning English. In particular, changes to Title I and Title VII are intended to hold schools and educators accountable for the success of their students. I view these changes as an opportunity to provide high-quality programs for LEP students, as well as to help districts evaluate students' success and make necessary changes to help them improve.

Our desire to help LEP students achieve at the highest levels underlies the following set of proposed accountability provisions:

  • Annual English proficiency assessments for LEP students in Title I and Title VII for use by parents and teachers;
  • Enhanced program evaluation requirements in Title VII;
  • Closer scrutiny of Title VII programs for fourth and fifth year continuation funding;
  • Reinforcement of current Title I legislation requiring the assessment of LEP students' knowledge, to the extent practicable, in the language and form most likely to yield accurate and reliable information. The proposal would require, at a minimum, that states use Spanish language testing for Spanish-speaking LEP students when those tests are more likely to yield accurate information; and
  • Testing reading or language arts in English as part of the Title I testing cycle if the LEP student has been in U.S. schools for at least three consecutive years.

We are aware that LEP students vary in the length of time they take to become fully proficient in English. To help ensure that schools and districts devote sufficient resources to support LEP students in reaching high academic standards, however, we believe it is appropriate to hold school systems accountable for the achievement of LEP students in English reading or language arts, when those students have been in U.S. schools for at least three consecutive years.

Our mission is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the Nation.


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The Department's proposal does not dictate the type of instructional program school districts must provide nor does it reduce the effectiveness of good programs already in place. Rather, it is simply part of an overall strategy, including professional development and enhanced services, to enable all students to reach high standards.

Our proposal is not inconsistent with civil rights laws. A school district that enrolls LEP students who need alternative language services has an obligation to provide meaningful access to the educational program until an individual determination is made by the district that the student has acquired sufficient proficiency in English and no longer needs such services. In addition, school districts have the duty to provide students with assistance necessary to remedy academic deficiencies incurred in other areas of the curriculum while the student is participating in an alternative language program.

LEP students traditionally have been "excused" from education accountability systems, despite the fact that the 1994 Improving America's Schools Act explicitly required programs such as Title I to include LEP students in both standards and accountability systems. Failing to include LEP students in school accountability systems can lead schools to ignore the needs of LEP students or remain unaware of their failure to provide equal educational opportunity to such students.

Again, thank you for your letter. Your viewpoint is very helpful to our efforts to ensure that LEP students have the same opportunity to meet high standards as other students.

Yours sincerely,

Dick Riley

Richard W. Riley


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This page last updated June 24, 1999 (pjk)