Changes in Policy

The English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement, and Academic Achievement Act is a part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and acted as a replacement for the Bilingual Education Act of 1968, which expired in 2002. The focus of NCLB was for eligible academic institutions to become self-sufficient and expand their capacity to serve low-income students by providing funds to improve and strengthen the academic quality, institutional management, and fiscal stability of eligible institutions.

The Bilingual Education Act of 1968, which was Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, presented the challenges of non-English speaking students and promoted bilingual education as an appropriate and effective way to serve LEP students. Its main purpose was to promote the development of innovative ESL education by offering competitive grants for SEAs. It was written at the height of the civil rights movement and reflected the nation's changing attitudes towards diversity and equality.

The BEA went through many revisions throughout its lifespan. The first set of clarifications was added in 1974, as a response to Lau v. Nichols and the Equal Educational Opportunity Act. The changes to the BEA throughout the latter half of the 20th century mainly involved: expanding and restructuring the grant program, increasing professional development, and expanding the definitions of bilingual programming and LEP. These changes were shaped mainly by studies of bilingual education in Canada, as little research was conducted on the effects of bilingual education in the United States. In 2001, ESEA was reauthorized as NCLB, and the BEA was replaced by Title III Part A.

English as a Second Language education pedagogy comprises two main ideologies: bilingual education or English-only education. The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights has set general guidelines that states must follow, but does not specify a preference of methodology. Since federal regulation does not specify the type of programming a SEA or LEA must adapt, approaches to ESL change with larger trends in educational policy. When the Bilingual Education Act was adopted in 1968, it emphasized alternative language acquisition methodology and bilingual education as the primary method to serve LEP students. However, through Title III Part A of NCLB in 2001, the focus shifted towards standards-based assessments; as a result, so did the policy regarding ESL education.

There are several differences between the BEA and Title III Part A. Some of these differences include the emphasis on LEP students meeting content-based academic standards and concrete methods of assessment and accountability through AMAOs. The largest difference between Title III and the BEA is the change in pedagogy towards ESL education. Whereas the BEA encouraged bilingual and alternative language learning, Title III emphasizes the importance of English-language instruction and proficiency as soon as possible. Once students obtain proficiency in accordance with the standardized test provided, they no longer receive ESL support or services, and are no longer tested on their English-language proficiency.While supporters of Title III argue that it provides a more rigorous and highly structured approach to monitoring academic and linguistic gains of LEP students, opponents argue that the assessments are not conducive to accurately representing the students' progress.