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.

Cet article examine les définitions des apprenants et des programmes proposées dans les documents de politique des États et des districts du Consortium pour l’évaluation des compétences en langue anglaise pour le 21e siècle (ELPA-21). Il montre comment la loi No Child Left Behind (NCLB) de 2001 influence encore les documents de politique émis par les États et les districts. Encadré par la Critical Language Policy (2006) de Tollefson et l’analyse critique du discours de Fairclough (1995), il constate que les définitions fédérales des apprenants d’anglais (EL) et des programmes ont fortement influencé les documents de politique des États et des districts aux États-Unis. Plus précisément, les États se rapportent aux définitions fédérales des EL et des programmes dans la façon dont ils mettent l’accent sur les «autres» langues des élèves, et donnent la priorité au développement de l’anglais et à la réussite scolaire dans les classes anglophones. Cette étude révèle également que les districts s’approprient les définitions fédérales et étatiques en créant des outils d’identification et d’évaluation, notamment par le biais d’une enquête sur la langue parlée à la maison et d’un examen initial des compétences linguistiques. Les districts se conforment également aux réglementations fédérales et étatiques pour mesurer le développement linguistique des EL dans un test de compétence annuel. Cependant, il existe des indications que les districts s’approprient ces définitions de manière complexe car certains créent un espace pour le bilinguisme tandis que d’autres spécifient le développement de l’anglais comme le seul objectif déclaré du programme.

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