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[Susan notes: We need a volume of Krashen letters. They are a model of informed response to big issues.]

Submitted to Detroit Free Press but not published
03/05/2004

To the editor



The US Dept. of Education just announced a

"relaxation" in NCLB (No Child Left Behind)

requirements: Children acquiring English as a second language no longer have to be tested in English their first year in school. Michigan educators interviewed by the Free Press feel that this is not enough time and recommend waiting three years ("Teachers: Year to learn English isn't enough, "March 4).



The research is on their side. Study after study shows that one year is nowhere near enough time to acquire enough English to do regular class-work and to show competence on standardized tests. Children acquire some "conversational" language in one year, but academic language, the language of story problems and social studies texts, is much more complex.



Most children starting in kindergarten generally take about three years to acquire enough academic language to join the mainstream, using bilingual or "immersion" methods. For those entering later, it takes longer, because the curriculum is more demanding. "Loosening" the requirement sends the false message that NCLB officials now understand the situation and are being more realistic. In reality, the more "flexible" one-year requirement sets children up for failure and wastes time and money on tests that tell us nothing.



Stephen Krashen


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