European Journal of Language Policy

Educational language policies in the United States: a critical discourse analysis of ELPA21

European Journal of Language Policy (2020), 12, (1), 5–27.

Abstract

This study examines the definitions of learners and programmes in state and district policy documents in the English Language Proficiency Assessment for the twenty-first century (ELPA-21) consortium and scrutinises how the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 still influences the state and district policy documents. Framed by Tollefson’s critical language policy (2006) and Fairclough’s (1995) critical discourse analysis, it finds that the federal definitions for English Learners (ELs) and programmes heavily influenced the state and district policy documents in the United States. More specifically, states relate to the federal definitions of ELs and programmes in how they emphasise students’ “other” languages and prioritise English development and academic achievement in English-speaking classrooms. The study also finds that districts appropriate federal and state definitions by creating tools for identification and assessment, namely through a home language survey and an initial language proficiency screener. Districts also comply with federal and state regulations to measure ELs’ language development in an annual proficiency test. However, there is evidence to support that districts appropriate these definitions in complex ways because some create space for bilingualism while others specify English development as the only stated programme goal.

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