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Nationwide, education researchers, policy makers, and school reformers agree that the education of English language learners (ELLs) is an increasingly important issue as (1) more students in more districts fit in that category (Ruiz-de-Velasco, 2005; Suarez-Orozco & Suarez-Orozco, 1999; Wortham, Murillo & Hamann, 2002); as (2) they, in aggregate, continue to fare less well than most other student populations (August & Hakuta, 1997; Callahan & Gindara, 2004; NCES, 1997); and as (3) policy compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act holds their schools accountable for their cumulative average yearly progress (Abedi, 2005; Crawford, 2004). There is also an emerging understanding that the education of ELLs should be a concern of all educators (Miramontes, Nadeau, Commins & Garcia, 1997), not just a specialized and often marginalized segment of the staff (Grey, 1991). That issue whether ELL education is viewed as a shared task among all educators, including school and district administration-is the focus of the two short case studies presented here.
This chapter considers my experiences in two school districts in two different regions of the United States. Although both districts were making substantial responses to ELLs when I last studied them, neither was an exemplar of responsiveness as measured by the academic performance of ELLs, nor did most teachers or administrators in either district see the education of ELLs as part of their own professional task. In my sketches of both cases, I seek to explain why the response was not more efficacious and to outline missed opportunities and next steps that would have increased the number of teachers willing to and capable of contributing to the success of ELLs.