English Learners Left Behind Standardized Testing as Language Policy Author: Kate Menken

Paperback - 216 pages
Related Formats:
27 Feb 2008
Bilingual Education & Bilingualism
Multilingual Matters
210 x 148

Key features

- Shares the human stories of how recent testing policy is affecting schools and the daily lives of teachers and students

- Language policy in the US is examined from the top-down and the bottom-up perspectives in both a practical and theoretical way


In the wake of recent federal legislation entitled No Child Left Behind, high-stakes standardized testing for accountability purposes is being emphasized in educational systems across the U.S. for all students – including English Language Learners (ELLs). Yet language proficiency mediates test performance, so ELLs typically receive scores far below those of other students. This book explores how tests have become de facto language policy in schools, shaping what is taught in school, how it is taught, and in what language(s) it is taught. In New York City, while most schools responded to testing by increasing the amount of English instruction offered to ELLs, a few schools have preserved native language instruction instead. Moreover, this research documents how tests are a defining force in the daily lives of ELLs and the educators who serve them.


Educating students who speak languages other than those recognized by school authorities is a most important issue. As the students' linguistic diversity has increased, educational authorities around the world have instituted high-stakes assessments that in effect push out language minority students. But there are few accounts of the effects of these assessments in the lives of students and their teachers. Menken's book is an exception. Written in elegant prose and with an abudance of scholarly data, Menken brings to light the tensions between top-down assessment policies and the ways in which teachers, as well as students, negotiate them. Focusing on the U.S. context, this important book is of relevance to anyone thinking about the relationship between school assessment and educational processes and practices throughout the world.

- Professor Ofelia García, Program in Bilingual/Bicultural Education ,Teachers College, Columbia University,

English Learners Left Behind is an outstanding, albeit troubling, study of how language policy is made in the surreal world of American education. As the first scholar to exhaustively document the pernicious effects of high-stakes testing for ELL students, Kate Menken has performed an invaluable service for both children and educators. All U.S. politicians should be required to read her book – and pass a test on it – before voting on misguided legislation like No Child Left Behind.

- James Crawford, President, Institute for Language and Education Policy

Author Biography:

Kate Menken is an Assistant Professor of Linguistics and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at Queens College of the City University of New York (CUNY), and a Research Fellow at the Research Institute for the Study of Language in an Urban Society at the CUNY Graduate Center. Previously, she was a teacher of English as a second language.

Readership Level:

Postgraduate, Research / Professional

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