Language Policy Essay

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LANGUAGE LEGISLATION: VOTER DRIVEN INITIATIVES
Kelly M. Jefferson
Grand Canyon University: SPE 523
July 23, 2012

The issue of language policy and the education of English language learners (ELLs) in this country has been hotly debated and widely contested. Students who enter our school systems without an understanding of the English language must attain not only conversational proficiency, but also academic literacy in English. Academic literacy is the foundation of school success and necessary for students to master content standards (Echevarria, Short, & Vogt, 2008).

All parties agree that ELLs are federally entitled to a quality education once they join this country’s educational system. The debate stems from how to effectively teach students English and core content, simultaneously, in ways that ensure their success within the curriculum. Politicians and educators must also grapple with the dilemma of how to effectively educate non-native students, so as to facilitate their adequate proficiency on a myriad of statewide tests required of all pupils enrolled in public schools.

ELLs are concentrated in the urban areas of states like California, Texas, Florida, Illinois, and New York, which have seen the largest influx of English learners within their schools (Boyle, Cadiero-Kaplan, & Peregoy, 2008). Students with limited English proficiency (LEP) made up almost ten percent of the K-12 public school student population in the 2004-2005 school year (Echevarria et al., 2008). Spanish is the most prevalent primary language (L1) and is spoken by eighty percent of ELLs (Boyle et al., 2008).

In the absence of clear direction at the federal level on how to best prepare ELLs academically, many states have taken the matter into their own hands through various voter initiatives. Arizona, California, and Massachusetts are states that have attempted to solve these questions through ballot initiatives. The voters of each...
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