Original Paper

Language Policy

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 201-216

First online:

NCLB and California’s English language learners: The perfect storm

  • Patricia GándaraAffiliated withUniversity of California Email author 
  • , Gabriel BacaAffiliated withUniversity of California

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We argue here that the combination of U.S. federal education policy as embodied in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 with the passage of a California state initiative that required that “nearly all classroom instruction [be] in English … for a period not normally intended to exceed one year” in 1998 created a “perfect storm” for English Learners. English Learners are thus provided inadequate and incomprehensible academic instruction. Federal law, meanwhile, requires that all students, even if they do not speak English, be tested annually in English for academic progress, and their schools be sanctioned if progress is not sufficient. Whether such demands can legitimately be made on schools is an unsettled issue across the United States. California’s case should serve as an example to others that forcing students to be assessed in a language they do not fully comprehend violates principles of social justice wherever it is practiced.


Assessment Bilingual education NCLB English Learners English language learners Proposition 227